Magazine article The Masthead

Reading Editorials for a Living

Magazine article The Masthead

Reading Editorials for a Living

Article excerpt

A visit with Editorials on File's Oliver Trager

Oliver Trager probably reads more editorials than anyone else in the country.

It's his job.

Trager sifts through hundreds of editorials each week to find the 200 or so that he will publish twice a month in the journal Editorials on File. He has served as managing editor of Editorials on File for the past 15 years.

"I'm a one-man show," he said in a recent interview from his office in New York City. "I do everything, short of paste-up."

Not surprisingly, Trager has some strong thoughts about the craft of editorial writing at the dawn of the 21st century. To put it bluntly, he's worried. Editorial writing in America is too "stodgy," he said. Rather than suggesting original ideas on issues, too many newspaper editorials offer merely "shades of difference in their opinions."

"There's a great deal of redundancy," he said. "Editorial pages have not kept up with the times."

The reason for the increasing blandness that Trager detects? "It's the incredible consolidation of the press," he said. "It doesn't bode well for the future of debate in this country."

He spoke admiringly of the Italian newspapers he read during a recent European jaunt. Those newspapers offered real diversity: He read a socialist newspaper, a communist newspaper, and a near-fascist newspaper.

But Trager does admire two characteristics of American editorials: "their tradition and authority."

Newspapers have undergone enormous change, but editorials have remained a constant, he said. They're a crucial part of a respected tradition of newspapers looking out for the public good. And editorials still speak with much authority, influencing voters and political leaders.

He publishes about 64 pages of editorials in each issue of Editorials on File, which is part of the larger Facts on File company. …

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