Cindy Allen / columnist

I remember a former publisher I used to work with had a saying that he always wrote at the top of his editorial page. Leland Gourley, editor and publisher of Friday Newspaper in Oklahoma City, wrote "An editorial is not a command from on high; it's just one man's opinion."

I wanted to take this opportunity to explain to readers what an editorial page is and why it's included in the daily newspaper.

The newspaper in general is a package of information for readers. It includes news articles, feature articles and advertising that readers can use for information or for entertainment. The goal of the news content in a newspaper is to present an objective view of issues and happenings in the community, the state and the world.

The editorial page is the one page in the newspaper reserved for writers and readers to express an opinion or reaction to timely news, events or issues of concern. Not all editorials take sides on an issue, but most editorials are written to inform, promote a position, praise or criticize, and sometimes to entertain. I prefer editorials that offer solutions. In other words, it's OK to criticize something or someone, but the editorial needs to offer alternatives or solutions to handling of issues.

We have a variety of editorial writers in our newspaper. Local staff members, including Jeff Mullin, write columns for the newspaper. Jeff's columns take an analytical and often humorous look at personalities and events. I occasionally write a column that is often based more on political or governmental philosophy. Phil Brown often focuses on historical events in the community. We have other columnists that are syndicated from other news services.

We have both conservative and liberal viewpoints presented with these columnists.

If you take a look at the daily editorial page, it pretty much looks the same each day. At the top left is the area which guides readers to contact folks who are responsible for the editorial page. You'll see the name of the News -- Eagle editorial board. Each week, this group meets to discuss ideas for editorials for the coming week. Each person takes turns writing the editorials that appear on the page.

The gray box on the left-hand side of the page is where the News -- Eagle editorial board editorials appear. This is the position the newspaper takes on an issue. It is the consensus view of the editorial board.

The cartoon at the top of the page is provided by syndicated news services. We try to choose a variety of cartoons that present different sides of an issue. Some of those ideas may be conservative, some may be liberal or otherwise.

In the center of the page, we usually feature one of our columnists. We try to provide a balance of different opinions on this issue. At the right-hand side of the page, we often publish letters to the editor, dotcomments or other pieces provided by readers. If there are no reader-submitted articles, we will place another columnist there.

At the bottom, we can run a longer "Forum" piece from local readers or other columnists. On Sunday, our editorial page is expanded to another page to include more columnists.

Why do we print opinions in the newspaper and why does the newspaper or its editors or writers take a stand on certain issues? The philosophy behind an editorial page is it provokes thought and discussion. When the newspaper takes a stand on an issue, it's our way of presenting a leadership view. Our philosophy is that the newspaper has a responsibility to analyze and provide a viewpoint on important community issues. We know readers will not always like every column or editorial that appears here. Frankly, some get pretty mad sometimes.

That's OK. What we hope is that people who disagree with our opinion or any other opinions expressed on this page will talk about it among their friends or family, or they could even express their own opinion by writing a letter to the editor or going online and expressing a reader comment.

Is every viewpoint welcome here? No. We do make judgments on what appears on this page. For example, we will not publish letters or comments that we know are factually incorrect. We will not allow it to be a forum to bash your neighbor or a business. We try not to publish viewpoints that are only intended to inflame passions.

We have a broad guideline in that readers' letters and comments should address an issue of public or general interest. The rest of the readers don't care whether you like your neighbor or not, but they might be interested in how you feel about a city government action.

The editorial page probably is one of the best-read pages in our newspaper. We like to receive lots of letters and opinions from others, because this is an opportunity to let readers have their say on issues.

And, taking advice from Leland Gourley, readers need to keep in mind these editorials and columns are not edicts. They are simply opinions of one person or a group of people. They are valid, but they are debatable. And that's what makes the editorial page such a necessity in the newspaper.

Allen is the managing editor of the News -- Eagle. She can be reached at 548-8163 or by e-mail at

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