File - Huron Publications

Tips on writing staff editorials
and other opinion pieces
The Heart & Soul
of Your
Three purposes of a high school
newspaper are to inform, entertain and
lead. They do this by:
 explaining or interpreting past events
 analyzing current issues
 examining future events
 serving as a forum for student opinion
 Purposes of an editorial:
 Criticize or attack
 Praise
 Endorse
 Defend
 Instigate, advocate or appeal
 Warn or predict
 Bottom line: effect a change, to
improve the school or community, to right
a wrong, to warn against unwise, illegal or
self-serving actions. Therefore, what’s the
point of publishing editorials about…
 Holidays
 Watch out for the ghosts and goblins
 Be thankful this Thanksgiving
 Send the gift of love this Valentine’s Day
 Honor our veterans, our current men and
women in uniform, Martin Luther King,
Columbus, Lincoln, Washington, the other minor
presidents, St. Patrick, Mom, Dad, Grandpa, and
 And, of course, the true meaning of…
What has happened to Christmas? The joyous day
of celebration for Jesus Christ’s birth has been clouded
over by worries of money or “What shall I buy for Bob?”
One of the problems in today’s society is that no one
is taking the time to stop and remember why we even
celebrate Christmas. Is it the gifts? No. Is it the football
games? Is it Frosty the Snowman or the Christmas
tree? No, yet again.
It is the birth of our Lord. That’s what we need to
remember this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
 Personal behavior
 get involved; don't be apathetic
 don't gossip
 don't complain
 respect your elders
 don't procrastinate
 set high goals
 be someone's friend
 don’t litter; clean up after yourself
 wear deodorant; shower now and then
 have school spirit
 Be thankful…
Have you said ”thank you” today? Most people
haven’t. They don’t seem to care. They neglect to
pay the courtesy that due. The reason is probably
because they forget what people do for them.
Eventually, they forget the everyday common
courtesies that shouldn’t be forgotten.
People like to be thanked for the things they do
for you. It makes them feel good inside. They learn
to like and respect you for the example you set for
others. It really does pay to thank someone.
 Don’t procrastinate…
Why put off what you can do today until
How many times have you heard this? How many
times have you really taken to heart what it says?
You don’t know, do you? Why do people always
seem to make excuses in order to put something off
for as long as possible? Is it a lack of motivation? Is
it boredom?” Or is it just plain laziness?
Life would be a lot better is you’d go ahead and
do today what you’d rather wait and do tomorrow.
So, hop it.
 Illicit or illegal behavior
 don't smoke or dip
 don't drink alcohol
 don't use drugs
 don’t steal or cheat
 be chaste; don’t get AIDS or STDs
 eat sensibly
 don't get anorexia nervosa
 don't abuse children
 don't commit suicide
 Join a club…
Mu Alpha Theta may sound like a radiated cow,
but in actuality, it is the Math Club.
Clubs are a unique way of broadening one’s
horizons. When you become a member, you meet
many people and share memorable times with
them. You also learn more about the subject of the
club you choose to be in.
So, if you are interested in joining any of the
clubs at our school, listen for announcements or
speak to the club’s sponsor.
 Don’t vandalize the school
Vandalism is defined as “willful or malicious
destruction or defacement of things of public or
private property.” The CHS campus is not
immune to this destructive act.
Immaturity is a main cause of vandalism.
Vandals show a lack of pride and selfconfidence. Instead of destroying someone
else’s property, vandals should use that time to
beautify their community. In short, they just need
to grow up.
 Topics over which you have no control:
 dang that Hurricane Katrina
 Iran’s nuclear ambitions
 too bad about the homeless
 world poverty
 saving the rain forests
 all the ‘isms: racism, sexism, ageism…
 Ask yourself:
 What is the purpose of the editorial?
 What action do you want to see take place?
 Do you know all of the facts?
 Are you being fair to everyone involved?
 Do you have a conflict of interest?
 Figure out:
 Are your solutions practical? Are you being
 Will the topic be of interest to your readers?
 Is there a solution?
 Is this problem so large that it will require more
than one editorial?
 What is the best way to approach the issue?
 Topics to cover…
 Administration
 Policies (bell schedules, dress codes, behavior
codes, attendance policy, drug testing codes, etc.)
 Letter jackets.
 Loss of school time.
 Site based management
 Fees
 Priorities (academics v. athletics)
 What to cover?
 Faculty
 Burnout/stress
 Student/teacher ratios
 No Child Left Behind
 Paperwork
 “Highly Qualified”
 What to cover?
 Finances
 Teacher pay and benefits
 State equity of funding
 Federal funding and grants
 Stipends for academic coaches
 Funding equity boys v. girls sports
 What to cover?
 Education issues
 Censorship
 Evolution vs. ID
 Abstinence only
 Sexual harassment
 Dropouts/at-risk students
 Special education
 Religion in schools
 Grade inflation
 What to cover?
 Culture
 Negative peer pressure
 Profanity and lack of civility
 Sportsmanship
 Cheating
 Exercise of religion
 Issues relating to race
 What to cover?
 National & International events
 Iraq & Afghanistan
 Military draft
 Federal and state budget priorities
 Immigration
 Economy (minimum wage)
 Finding something to write about
 Brainstorm a topic.
 Is this subject worthwhile?
 Does it serve a specific purpose?
 Who is our target audience?
 What’s the local angle?
 Do we have a chance to change anything?
 Writing the editorial…
 Emphasize clarity
 Use examples and comparisons
 Make numbers meaningful
 Use third person
 “We, us, our” only if necessary
 Get your facts right
 Examine the issue from all points of view
 Appeal to the intellect, not just emotions
 Focus on principle, not personality
 Writing tips…
 Avoid second or first person singular
 Don’t write when you’re angry
 Never attack a person or group personally
 Do not resort to name-calling, labels, stereotypes
 Don’t ask rhetorical questions
 Avoid direct quotes
 Don’t ramble
 Don’t wimp out
 Never overstate a situation
 Avoid clichés
 Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water
 Just do it
 Two wrongs don’t make a right
 The future is now
 Go for it
 Get ‘r done
 The mother of all…
Avoid clichés
• You don’t have to be rocket scientist…
 In your face
 Same-old same-old
 Your worst nightmare
 Been there, done that
 Get a life
 As if
 Oh, pu-leeze!
 Writing the editorial
 State your opinion in the first paragraph
 Sell your position with facts, logic, examples
 Present your case in a logical order
 Keep it short and to-the-point
 End with a “call to action”
 Gutless wonders
Floridians have just witnessed a stunning display of
gutlessness. The state Legislature had in its hands a solution to
the gouging of consumers by loan sharks who lend money at
triple-digit rates in exchange for car titles.
With the opportunity to do some real good, though, the
Republican leadership chose instead to flim-flam the people.
Rather than racing to help the poor souls being victimized,
lawmakers ran a charade, as though there was some compelling
public interest in allowing businesses to charge outrageous rates
for loans. The only interests being served, though, were those of a
handful of big-time campaign contributors and their lobbyists.
So, thanks to that gutlessness, consumers are stuck with
another year in which those predators can charge as much as 264
percent in interest and loans.
 Boy Scout alert
Heard about the latest threat to American civil liberties? No, it’s
not that millions of law-abiding citizens won’t leave their houses
after dark for fear of being mugged. Or that our airports are being
refitted as miniature police states so terrorists won’t crash our
jetliners into skyscrapers.
You might be worried about such things, but the American Civil
Liberties Union has other fish to fry. It has discovered that publicly
funded governments hereabouts are sponsoring Boy Scout troops.
Boy Scout troops! Right here in Chicagoland, under our very
noses, certain public schools, parks and fire stations have been
aiding and abetting the Boys Scouts of America, allowing them to
hold troop meetings in their gyms, warm up cocoa in their galleys
and who knows what else.
 Boy Scout alert
Some might find no harm in this. Some might even claim that
voluntary organizations like the Boys Scouts, with their emphasis
on family values and community service, are exactly what this
fractious nation of strangers needs at this point in history.
Which shows how little some of us know about civil liberties,
especially compared to the legal eagles at the ACLU, who have
served notice on the Board of Education, Chicago Housing
Authority and other agencies that charter scout troops. They want
this linkage severed forthwith because the Scouts discriminate
against atheists and homosexuals.
In fact, the Scout brass admit their members must pledge duty
to God and that their troops may not enroll “avowed” homosexuals.
The Scouts don’t ask an applicant’s sexual orientation, but neither
do they allow members, leaders or employees to openly confess
 Boy Scout alert
The ACLU’s Gay and Lesbian Rights Project has been unable
to force a change in that policy because the Scouts have invoked
their right as a private organization to exclude whomever they
wish. So the ACLU is going after the public-sector link.
Once that dragon is slain, they may want to examine the
blatant use of park softball diamonds by church-sponsored teams.
Or they may, for credibility’s sake, refocus on things that matter.
— Chicago Tribune
 Last suggestion
 Don’t whine
 Don’t expect miracles
 Be mature
 Always take the high road
 Dedicate yourself for the long run
For more, order…
Bobby Hawthorne’s
The Radical Write
Available from the Journalism Education
Association bookstore at