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Speak as an Expert in Your Editorials

Posted on Saturday, May 30, 2015 at 8:38 PM

Every editorial column written should reflect 'industry insider' status.

By Howard Rauch

No "competitive analysis" discussion is complete without special attention to expectations for an editor-in-chief's personal column.

In fact, each column should reflect "insider status" as opposed to "observer" or "parroting" status. There is a difference.

Three Different Approaches

Specifically, the insider attempts to propose solutions to an industry problem his/her column reviews.

The best an observer can do is to describe a known problem and then hope readers can figure best courses of action.

In addition to columns that reflect "insider" or "observer" capability, a third variation exists: "parroting." Typically, the author makes no attempt to introduce original thinking. Instead, the commentary merely pulls excerpts from articles appearing in the issue. To a certain extent, what you have is a second contents page rather than an opinion piece.

A Competitive Advantage

Now consider this: Competitive editorial analysis reviews should always start with the editorial column. You can punch some very big holes in the opponent's armor if columns don't exude the desirable "insider" aura.

Then there is this thought: Insider status is not achieved overnight. From the first day a junior editor is on the job, there should be a program in place designed to raise that individual's authoritative grasp of industry affairs as quickly as possible.

For those of you who contend that columns also should reflect expertise in one's craft, here is a reference list worth considering:

Five Pointers

--The headline should immediately reflect the column's take-away value. Don't expect to do this with a format that calls for headline lengths of just three or four words.

--If a deck is required, it should expand upon rather than duplicate the headline's message.

--The main article's introductory paragraph should reach a key story point within the first ten words. Obviously that's impossible if you prefer launching each column with a multi-paragraph anecdote devoid of required immediacy.

--The best efforts are those totally based on the author's personal views. This is as opposed to a column totally devoted to quoting other parties inside or outside your industry.

--Fog Index reading levels should not exceed 10th-12th grade.

The Editor as a Leader

There is one more notable point pertaining to this discussion:

The "industry insider" is prepared to take a leadership position, either in tackling an industry problem, deploring unacceptable industry practices, or attacking unfavorable pending legislation.

Many editors write well-researched columns that deliver the insider's view every time. But too many authors still resort to parroting more often than not.

How do you fit into this picture?

Howard Rauch is president of Editorial Solutions Inc. (http://www.editsol.com). Preparing competitive analysis reports is an area of specialization for him. He is also chair of ASBPE's ethics committee.

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Thanks for the advice on writing editorials. I have to admit this is a challenge for me -- after spending so long as a reporter who works to present balanced coverage of various sides of an issue, it is often hard for me to come down on one side of an issue. There are many shades of gray, and the right solution for one portion of our audience won't be right for a different part of it. --Deborah Lockridge, editor-in-chief, Heavy Duty Truckers

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