Hold Editorials to Highest Standard


By Jim Pumarlo

What’s the first word you associate with editorials? Editorials can serve a variety of roles.

They educate. They enlighten. They entertain. They challenge your personal beliefs. They reinforce your positions. They frustrate. They anger. They might prompt laughter or tears.

A common element to the most effective editorials, however, is that they leave an impression or prompt a reaction.

Above all, editorials should be held to the highest standards of journalism. They must be accurate. They must be accountable.

I argue that in community journalism, those standards are ratcheted up another notch.

Local editorials are the franchise of local newspapers. That often means offering commentary on topics that necessarily involve friends, neighbors and associates – individuals you see and do things with on a regular basis.

It’s straightforward to report on a proposal by the high school baseball coach to take his team on a spring training trip to warmer climates. It’s more challenging to write an editorial that suggests an overemphasis on sports and the need for the school to stick to its core academic mission.

As difficult as it is, you must focus on the facts despite your closeness to the circumstances or the individuals involved.

Strive for admiration and respect from your community, and you’ll have the foundation for a strong editorial.


Jim Pumarlo writes, speaks and provides training on community newsroom success strategies. He is author of “Journalism Primer: A Guide to Community News Coverage,” “Votes and Quotes: A Guide to Outstanding Election Coverage” and “Bad News and Good Judgment: A Guide to Reporting on Sensitive Issues in Small-Town Newspapers.” He can be reached at www.pumarlo.com and welcomes comments and questions at jim@pumarlo.com.