What is an Editorial? Discuss its importance?
Editorials are typically published on a dedicated page, called the editorial page, which often features letters to the editor from members of the public; the page opposite this page is called the op-ed page and frequently contains opinion pieces (hence the name think pieces) by writers not directly affiliated with the publication. However, a newspaper may choose to publish an editorial on the front page. In the English-language press, this occurs rarely and only on topics considered especially important; it is more common, however, in some European countries such as Denmark, Spain, Italy, and France.
Many newspapers publish their editorials without the name of the leader writer. Tom Clark, leader-writer for The Guardian, says that it ensures readers discuss the issue at hand rather than the author. On the other hand, an editorial does reflect the position of a newspaper and the head of the newspaper, the editor, is known by name. Whilst the editor will often not write the editorial themselves, they maintain oversight and retain responsibility.
The very first criterion is that a good editorial is an opinion maker. If it is based on evidence, so much the better. But it analyses evidence rather than produces it. Of course what it analyses can be the basis of the production of new evidence. But it is more like the ‘Results and Discussion’ that follow ‘Materials and Method’ in a research paper in so far as it is an objective analysis. However, it goes beyond an analysis. It must necessarily also express an opinion. It must attempt to critically analyse and sift from the various opinions, analyses and evidences floating around. It must present a refreshing perspective on an issue so as to retain balance when writings get opinionated; and/or stir up the crotchety and crusty when scientific/creative stupor sets in. Moreover, a good editorial is contemporary without being populist. It tackles recent events and issues, and attempts to formulate viewpoints based on an objective analysis of happenings and conflicting/contrary opinions.
An editorial is predominantly about balance. But that does not prevent it from occasionally stirring things up, when such is the need. Hence a hard-hitting editorial is as legitimate as a balanced equipoise that reconciles apparently conflicting positions and controversial posturings, whether amongst politicians (in news papers), or amongst researchers (in academic journals).
All said and done, the element of balance can never be lost. For that, it certainly helps if an editor is a balanced individual by temperament as well. However, let it not mean that balance in temperament excludes crusading zeal. Most editors of some merit have the latter in reasonable quantity, although they may play it down, or publicly make a mockery of it, since it is the in thing to do (the mockery, not the crusading). Moreover, denial can be a strong defense mechanism, as much in editors as in the rest of humanity.
Make no mistake about it. Forget the loud protestation to the contrary. Scratch the surface of any good editor who enjoys his job, and a crusader will shine through.
To sum up, a good editorial is either one or more of the following: it is an opinion maker, it is reconciliatory between contrary viewpoints or standpoints, it is balanced in its analysis of evidence and events, and it is, manifest or otherwise, crusading in its thrust.