Editorial: On unsigned editorials and social media guidelines

Editorial: On unsigned editorials and social media guidelines

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A number of readers have expressed dismay over the fact that our newspapers have stopped running signed editorials in this space.

Longtime Albany Democrat-Herald editor Hasso Hering always closed his editorials with his initials. Sometimes this was to his detriment, as readers could lob personal attacks against Hering rather than trying to battle his mostly conservative arguments.

Due to the expectations regarding unsigned editorials in Albany, Corvallis Gazette-Times editor Mike McInally adopted the same approach when he took the reins of both newspapers in 2012.

This was a departure for the G-T, which previously had published more than 1,000 unsigned editorials during McInally’s tenure and had a decades-long tradition of the practice.

Unsigned editorials aren’t any sort of anomaly in the industry. Most newspapers don’t have signed editorials, which are viewed as archaic and problematic for various reasons, some of which we’ll get to in a bit. 

We recognize that the readers of the D-H, G-T and Lebanon Express have come to expect signed editorials and that they appreciate knowing who authored a particular piece.

However, we no longer have a single editor-in-chief acting as our editorial voice. Rather, we have an editorial board that comes together on a regular basis to debate the issues of the day and shape our editorial stance. We discuss local, regional, national and international matters. The resulting editorials are an expression of jointly formulated opinions.

These are not an individual’s views, and the person tasked with writing editorials often is drafted (sometimes under protest) because of perceived workload or lack thereof.

To be sure, the team process was happening to a certain degree under McInally. Though he ultimately authored nearly all of our newspapers’ editorials for years, he believed in collaboration, seeking input from other editorial board members and rank-and-file reporters. McInally also, in a way, sought guidance from Hering, often continuing the D-H editor’s stance on important issues, such as speaking out in favor of marijuana legalization from a libertarian perspective.

In a similar vein, we've continued to take guidance from McInally on certain subjects, as he was a talented writer and thinker. And much like Hering, we mourn his departure from our ink-stained shores. Both these men are great journalists.

Since our process is more collaborative that it was in the past — two editorial board members have written lengthy sections of this piece, and others will review it and massage the language — we have decided to follow the practice of many other U.S. newspapers and run our editorials without signature.

At the same time, we have added the names of our editorial board members to the masthead at the top of this page. We hope this addresses the concerns of our readers who have been wondering whose opinions they’ve been seeing in our editorial column.

Again, this isn’t some secret plot, some “cowardly” conspiracy to hide the identities of our employees seeking to educate and inform your viewpoint. Unsigned editorials are simply a better reflection of our current reality and newsroom process.

Social media guidelines

We recently realized that we may never have articulated, in print, our social media guidelines. We also recognize it’s hard for people to hit the mark if they don’t know where the target lies.

These aren’t exactly firm laws, but rather rough guidelines. Running astray of them, however, could mean deleted comments, and repeat offenders risk banishment from our newspapers’ Facebook pages.

First and foremost, our Facebook pages are rated PG. That means no cursing. We’re complete prudes about language, so our definition of cursing includes acronyms comprising swear words, discussions of genitalia, sexually transmitted diseases, intercourse and more. If the word or phrase isn’t suitable to be read aloud in public by a fourth-grader, it's probably best to skip that language.

Swearing is the reason why 99 percent of bans occur on our Facebook pages.

We also don’t allow threats of violence, pornography, outright racism or homophobic slurs, and, thankfully, these turn out to be relatively rare.

Our Facebook pages are designed to support our business by providing traffic to our websites. Therefore, we don’t allow commenters to cut and paste our articles into threads, nor do we allow people to redirect traffic to our competitors.

Comments from freeloaders complaining about our paywall are generally deleted, as well.

Journalism doesn’t come for free, and we’d like our reporters to be able to continue to feed their families. We recognize that your work has value. Ours does, too.

Editor's note: the above editorial was run because pieces from the editorial  board will continue to be featured on this page and the same social media expectations are in place.


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