We’d like to clear up a couple of common misconceptions about journalism involving headlines and political views.
The newspaper page designer — not the reporter — typically writes headlines.
Those headlines must fit a particular space using one font or a small handful of font options in a narrow range of sizes. They’re supposed to catch readers’ interest with an accurate portrayal of the story.
Other rules of thumb, such as preferably using complete sentences, apply, too.
It’s tricky to write a good headline.
Reporters and columnists may suggest headlines, which the designer may or may not use, depending on various factors. The suggested headline not fitting the allotted space is a common reason for not using it.
In tiny operations like the Observer, where all reporters are also page designers, reporters may write the headline for their own story if designing the page on which that article appears. In larger operations, where separate people write articles and design pages, the reporter never writes headlines and likely won’t even see them before the paper hits the streets.
Recently, another newspaper printed a headline in very poor taste. The reporter took a lot of heat — but he had nothing to do with the headline, only the story, which wasn’t inappropriate.
If you’re upset with a headline, please don’t automatically attack the reporter. Contact the editor to discuss the problem.
We make every effort to keep our political views out of our news reporting. If we express an opinion, it’s clearly marked as such.
It’s vital that we step back from our pre-existing views and consider a wider angle to ensure balanced reporting. We cover events and issues to observe and report other people’s stories, not go on crusades.
So, staff members aren’t likely to discuss our views in a public forum while we’re working. That’s not appropriate.
It’s also an opportunity for someone to use our views to prejudge our work and attack us.
A reporter was recently maligned for declining to discuss her political views, even after explaining why. The people who leveled the harsh criticism are likely the same ones who complain about bias in the national media.
If you don’t like bias in the media, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to complain when reporters work to keep their own viewpoints out of their work.
Also, as Americans, we all have the right to share or not share our beliefs as we see fit.
If you have questions or complaints about our coverage or an editorial, you are welcome to write a letter to the editor for publication or contact the relevant staff member to discuss it one on one. We ask that you remain civil and not try to force the staff to divulge views we don’t believe are appropriate for the setting.
We will do the same.
A staff directory is available at the bottom of page 2 and at https://rrobserver.com/about-our-journalists. Our policy for submitting opinion pieces appears at the bottom of page 4, or email [email protected] for more information.