One Writer's Roots We're Merging the Editorial Boards of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the (Toledo) Blade

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), March 4, 2018 | Go to article overview

One Writer's Roots We're Merging the Editorial Boards of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the (Toledo) Blade


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and its sister paper, The Blade, of Toledo, Ohio, under the direction of publisher and editor-in-chief John Robinson Block, are about to engage in an effort that, to my knowledge, has never before been tried in American journalism. We are, with the help of John Allison, Dan Simpson and Joe Smydo here, and my colleagues Wynne Everett, Tom Troy and Will Tomer in Toledo, going to merge two editorial boards and, to the fullest extent possible, two editorial pages.

For all of us, this is going to be fun.

The trick will be to make our pages fun for our readers, with meaningful and compelling commentary on local, state, national, international and cultural topics. Our range is wide. Our subject matter is inexhaustible.

And our mission is a simple, though not an easy one: insight.

Those of us who labor on the opinion side of journalism go to our reading, our discussions with fellow journalists, academics and policy makers, and ultimately our keyboards in search of insight. It's not good enough to rehash and deplore. We must give readers some nugget of thought to take away from every piece we generate.

I have been writing commentary and opinion since 1980 (one of the first pieces I wrote was on the death of John Lennon, for the Post-Gazette) and professionally since the mid-1980s when the late and great John Craig, editor of the Post-Gazette, plucked me out of the academy.

Mr. Craig had me try out as a sort of glorified intern at this newspaper, and when I'd more or less passed the test, he called me into his office and said, "I think you could do this work." But why would I want to? I loved teaching. Well, said Mr. Craig, you will have a very large classroom and you will have a more varied life.

Soon I was on my way to my first professional job as an editorial writer - in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Two years later Mr. Craig pursuaded William Block Sr., that great gentleman, to hire me in Toledo.

At about the time I went to Winston-Salem, Mr.Craig took part in a panel discussion at a national journalists' convention on the elements of good editorial writing. As usual, he eschewed piety for provocation. Most editorial pages are dull, repetitive and sanctimonious, he said. Our first rule should be: Don't be boring.

Say something. Make a point. Provoke thought.

Our search is a search for insight, which means that one has to be willing to risk giving offense.

It also means a resistance to orthodoxies, ideologies and isms.

I never heard Mr. Craig articulate a second rule, but he epitomized the independent journalist. Writers and journalists must have no side, or tribe. In this age of team journalism, and almost total predictability in opinion writing, the opinion writer must have roots, but no permanent alliances. …

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