The Best Editorials are Online

No publisher is required to go online; those who wish to stick with newsprint may do so. Yet, of all publishers, there are few who don’t have, at least, a rudimentary online offering.

Here’s one distinction, however, between major and minor newspapers: most major papers will put their editorials online without charge, but smaller papers are reluctant to do the same.

One sees why major papers do this: they see greater political influence through free, online publication. They’re convinced that what they lose in editorial-seeking subscribers they more than gain in influence via Facebook, Twitter, blog commentary, etc. Even the Wall Street Journal, entrenched behind a sturdy paywall, keeps many of its editorials unrestricted.

The local, smaller-paper practice of print-only editorials is professed to be necessary to drive print subscriptions, but I don’t know, and some of these papers probably don’t even know.

I do know, by contrast, that freely accessible editorials are often better written and more powerfully reasoned than print-only alternatives. A little time on the Web, easily accessible to anyone, offers an editorialist better and more widespread feedback (email or otherwise) than a print-only commentator.

If there’s a local newspaper problem with solid reporting – and there very much is – there’s an equal problem with cosseted, and as a consequence unpersuasive, editorialists.

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