Opinions: Why newspapers write editorials


A newspaper that does not write editorials is like a shiny new BMW without an engine – pretty to look at, but not getting anyone anywhere.

This sentiment is steeped in tradition going back to the days of Joseph Franklin. He edited America’s first lasting, independent Colonial newspaper, The New England Courant. He went on an editorial crusade against a way to treat smallpox advocated by Puritan ministers, Cotton and Increase Mather. Taking a stand deserves cheers for Franklin, but he messed up. The method supported by the Mathers actually fit the disease. Just the same, Franklin laid the foundation for questioning authority, a vital journalistic responsibility. Inadvertantly, he also showed why journalists must do their research before either lavishing praise or hailing criticism.

Franklin’s younger brother, Benjamin, started The Pennsylvania Gazette and carried on the concept of opinion writing. He criticized goverment actions, but did so responsibly. He also printed this time-tested observation embraced by journalists and all others who understand the value of the First Amendment: “If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”

The complete version of this editorial appears in the Friday, June 29, 2018, print edition of The Richmond News.

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