The mighty editorial

Mbabane, Swaziland | 4 June 2014
Bill Snaddon

Writing an editorial column – that article that appears in the comment and analysis section of the newspaper and expresses the opinion of the publication – must be a daunting task.

I have never had the pleasurable challenge of writing an editorial comment but I’m guessing it cannot be easy.

How does someone sum up the views of an entire newspaper?

How does one person summarise the differing opinions that exist within a newsroom and place these views into a short and readable column?

Amongst the senior members of the newspaper, much conversation and thinking goes into the editorial, but ultimately it still comes down to one person who must ‘take the bull by the horns’ and stitch these varying thoughts together into a succinct and relevant article.

Moreover, I’m guessing it must be an exercise in compromise and clarity: two things that do not always go well together.

I put the ‘and’ in italics to emphasise the competing natures of ‘compromise’ and ‘clarity’.

For if there is too much compromise then the writing might be unclear, expressing every opinion under the sun while not taking a clear position.

On the other hand, if there is too much clarity then the topic being examined might not have been interrogated thoroughly enough, giving the reader an impression of hollowness or suggesting the newspaper is glossing over inconvenient truths.

I am writing this column because, particularly of late, I have been enjoying the editorials written by the country’s two daily newspapers.

I have admiration for the editorials these newspapers publish and great respect for the opinions expressed therein. While I don’t always agree with the position of each newspaper, I nevertheless feel compelled to read the opinion and then allow my mind and conscience to grapple with the arguments.

I try to go into each editorial with an open mind but as the flawed mammal that I am this is not always possible.

I am aware of my own prejudices and upbringing, for better or worse, and must be alive to how these influences affect my thoughts and opinions, while simultaneously not being ashamed to admit that I, like all of us, have within me many biases.

One of the reasons I enjoy the editorials penned by the Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer is for their lack of jargon.

‘The guts and the gore which dominate newspaper headlines are not the media’s fascination with the gory but are a reflection of society,’ said the Times of Swaziland editorial yesterday.

One quick sentence filled with short and meaningful words, conveying a message of unquestionable truth.

The Swazi Observer in its Monday newspaper, under the editorial headline ‘What if Malema had won?’ could not have put it better.

‘Malema, who suffers from an acute foot in mouth illness, never failed to charm many South Africans’ who are fed up with the ANC.

It goes on to say that ‘nothing could please Malema more than the incarceration of Zuma whom he has continuously labelled a thug and who deserved to rot in prison’.

Sharp words, but again, telling it how it is.

I mean, sure, sometimes a bit og sludge slips through the editorial net (none of us are perfect, as several readers of this column delight in telling me) but even this sludge, if I can call it such, is rather insightful.

I like the way the editorials – in their own way – bring light to pressing issues, even if those ‘issues’ are taboo.

These editorials give proof to the benefits of discussion and conversation. They highlight the benefits of shining a torch on topics that are in the public interest.

This column was published in the Times of Swaziland on 4 June 2015

#24_A bumpy and necessary debate_4 June 2014


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