As Journalism Gets Personal, Are Unsigned Editorials Out of Touch?

Are we past the days of unsigned editorials?  In this emerging era of journalism-as-cult-of-personality, is a news outlet’s anthropomorphic opinion (“The New York Times feels…”) irrelevant?

In a column in today’s Lantern, the student newspaper at Ohio State University, opinion editor Richard Poskozim puts together a very rationale argument against upholding “the imaginary character” of the newspaper in a people-driven journalism age.  His main thesis: A quality news outlet is a collection of diverse, competing perspectives and should not be defined by a single set of editorials taking stances that not even five student editors (in the case of The Lantern) usually agree upon:

What matters to me is the real voice of the students, and not some stance by the imaginary character of The Lantern. . . . That voice is not an aggregate of five student editors. Even if we thought it was, marshalling us into agreeing on things like USG candidates or semesters and quarters is like trying to put wolves, tigers, bears, porcupine and deer into the same cage at the zoo. The results would be bloody and would scar some poor onlookers too. Instead, I’d like to keep each of us in our own display, to be seen as the complex individuals we are.  In short, The Lantern does not believe or think anything consistent, and does not take positions on behalf of OSU students. . . . The Lantern is the product of many voices, many opinions and many backgrounds, and saying otherwise would be dishonest and a poor service to the paper.

As news outlets move to a Huffington Post-ish “distributed journalism” model of many voices vying for attention, and disagreeing along the way, individuality and opinion have reigned.  A news outlet’s voice on high is lost in the shuffle.  Seriously, who actually searches news outlets’ Web sites for their unsigned editorials nowadays?  We are evermore reading news and views by people we like.  The outlets themselves are the platforms, the aggregators, not the opinion-makers.

What do you think?  Is the unsigned editorial a journalistic dinosaur that the Webolution has rendered obsolete?

4 Responses to “As Journalism Gets Personal, Are Unsigned Editorials Out of Touch?”
  1. The paper that I edit, The Drew University Acorn, is just now getting its feet wet in the online world. It’s something I want to do more with next year.

    But, as much as a giant paper like the one at OSU, needs to really make it’s voice heard online, we’re still just a small town paper. We publish every Friday afternoon.

    And for Drew students (Drewids), there’s a the shared and exciting experience of wandering down for brunch on Saturday morning and picking up a real, physical copy of The Acorn.

    We hold a special place on campus and I think that people like seeing what the anthropomorhic “The Acorn” has to say about what happened at Drew over the last week.

  2. Dan Reimold says:

    David- Thanks for writing. Absolutely, I’m still in the pro-print camp, at least for now. Richard’s argument isn’t focused on the print-online divide in his current piece but specifically the unsigned editorials that of course for years have been included in many student and professional newspapers’ opinion pages. The question: In the current personality-driven journalism sphere, does it matter anymore when a newspaper ‘says’ something as one collective voice? What do you think? Does The Acorn run an unsigned ed.?

  3. The Acorn does run a Lead Ed every week. It occupies the same prominent space in the Opinions section every week. It is generally written in tandem by the Opinions Editor, the EIC, and the Managing Editor, hough depending upon the topic any member of staff may end up contributing and all section editors know they are welcome to weigh in.

    I just don’t think that the personality-driven journalism you’re talking about is going on here at Drew. At Drew, there’s a still a sense from our public that there is an entity out there and its name is The Acorn and it collectively does and says certain things. That’s certainly still how I feel about the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.

    Since the HuffPo is mentioned, I think that’s different. I don’t think of the HuffPo as a single entity in the same way. It think of it as a platform for a variety of authors.

  4. Oh, and another thing. In the case of a paper like ours on a small campus, we can’t always count on one of the writers to want to tackle what a lot of us feel is the most important issue of the week. When that happens, Lead Ed can step in as a safety measure, to make sure that the important issue gets tackled in some way by the paper.