Thursday, April 19, 2007

Would You Like to Extend Your Remarks?

Colbert King, from his farewell memo to the WaPo:

A Post editorial stands for something, even when the desired action does not occur. A Post editorial is an expression of the considered opinion and collective wisdom and values of the best minds in the business. It is not the special province of any writer, no matter how prolific or dogmatic he/she may be in his/her views. Allow a Post editorial become the vehicle for the expression of one person's point of view-or a minority of the board's point of view-and the editorial loses its value, even though it might be selected to lead the page. I offer this thought because Fred has assembled a first rate staff-good minds that produce great work when they all contribute to an editorial, even though there may be one writer. Editorials simply must not be used to advance one individual's causes or views. That's what columns are for.

This means that members of the board must have the courage of their convictions-that the place to put views on the table is not in the corridor, rest room or across the dinner table at home- or in whispered conversations with friends and newsroom colleagues- but in the conference room where what is discussed there, stays there...or at least that's the way in which I was brought up by Meg. The period ahead offers serious challenges: the war; presidential politics; direction of domestic and foreign policy, a new Congress and a new city administration. If ever the Post's editorial page will be examined closely by readers across the city, country and world, it will be now.

The board, in my final view, needs to think through its position on Iraq, encouraging a full expression of views. Likewise, there must be a serious examination of race—how we editorialize about Prince Georges leaders vs. Northern Virginians-the language, the selection of words we use when talking about black vs. white leaders in the region.

The page must also take care to avoid resorting to sophomoric language when addressing serious matters. There is a tone that a Post editorial must maintain to preserve its unique standing in journalism.

How about telling us who, and how, and why?