Why They Don't like to Read Editorials

By Lippmann, Theo, Jr. | The Masthead, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

Why They Don't like to Read Editorials


Lippmann, Theo, Jr., The Masthead


* A group of college students examined the editorial page and found it directed at an audience other than themselves.

"I don't like editorials. I am a woman."

So explained a student in my opinion writing class at Johns Hopkins last spring.

I had assigned my 13 students to write a final paper on an editorial page they were required to read regularly during the semester. (Most read The Sun, but The New York Times, the Washington Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today also were used.)

This young woman expressed a common theme from the papers and from classroom discussion. Editorials don't appeal to certain audiences. "Editorials are written using men's language" and men's "thought processes." Women want "particulars" not "principles," she said.

Another female student thought editorial writers appeal to the wrong audiences on a generational rather than a gender distinction. "Editorial boards are still directed toward old-school readers," she wrote. "Those who buy newspapers today are younger than they used to be."

She also complained that figures of speech often went over her and her friends' heads. "What exactly is a one-armed bandit?" (Another student complained that an editorial used the word "kudos.")

Another young student (also a woman) hadn't read a newspaper until assigned to do so. "As a young person, in that golden demographic of 18-25-year-olds, I prefer to get my news from CNN and my analysis from Time and Newsweek," she wrote.

She also complained that the editorials (in The Sun) are too long. "We of Generation X are renowned for our short attention span."

Others objected to the fact that almost all editorials are the same length. Some should be longer. One student said the lengths of the editorials should vary according to the importance of the topic. He said he prefers the letters to the editor for that reason - and for the fact that letters express the opinions of identifiable individuals.

That is an oft-stated view. "Perhaps one reason why many readers shun editorials is simply because the reader has no idea whose opinion he or she is reading," one young man wrote.

Another said, "People don't care what the editorial boards of newspapers have to say [because] newspapers generally have a political bias one way or another of which the reader is aware."

Most students believe bias is not shown enough on editorial pages. "The piece was informative but completely directionless." "The piece would have worked well as a news article, and that comment shouldn't be made about editorials. …

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