About the Editorial

Just about 126 years ago to the week, Col Card, the editor of The Lakeville Journal, wrote a few lines under the masthead of the paper that represented what today would be construed as an editorial:

“You need not be in a hurry to get out your linen duster or put up your screen door, and you might just as well leave your flannels on for a while for we are liable to have some good old fashioned spring weather yet.”

The date was March 26, 1898. That was a time when, according to Rowell’s American Newspaper Directory, there were more than 20,000 different newspapers published in the United States, and a large number of them were small, serving hamlets and small communities.

Back then, The Lakeville Journal was published every Saturday, and for a yearly subscription price of $1.50, one could read about what was happening in Lakeville, Salisbury and Sharon. And that included Editor Card’s opinions, like this one:

“So far as heard from nothing more has been done toward perfecting a fire organization in this place, and in Salisbury. Now that warmer weather is here, would it not be a good thing to talk up and work up this matter. With one of the best water systems at our command we could, by practice and systematic work, cope with any fire that might break out, whereas lack of these might cost us the loss of half our beautiful village. How to use the means at hand is as essential as the means.”

The editor’s commentary conveyed a small town charm, too:

“The Doves who attended the Dove party at D.T. Warner’s last week were as mad as setting hens at the mistake in our report of the event. Our report called it a ‘done’ party. The doves may be assured that we wouldn’t have ‘done’ it for anything, but type are blundering little things.” (Note: The reference was to hot lead type.)

Today, The Lakeville Journal continues the tradition of The Editorial. In our recent history, before becoming a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit in 2021, we also engaged in political endorsement — no longer, because of our new status. We were saved from the struggle to survive in a declining newspaper climate by our readers and advertisers and by a community that wanted preserve its independent community newspaper.

But the industry as a whole has been sending The Editorial down the gangplank for a number of reasons. Gannett Co., the largest U.S. newspaper publisher by circulation, learned from its own editors a couple of years ago that readers don’t want to be told what to think.

Gannett also heard that The Editorial is one of the least-read features, and worse, that readers cited The Editorial as a reason to cancel their subscriptions.

In the 2016 presidential race, 57 of the biggest newspapers in the land endorsed Hilary Clinton, while two picked Donald Trump, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Gone are the days when an endorsement from a prominent newspaper would mean something, or when voters would clip The Editorial out of the paper and carry it along with them on the way to the poll. According to the American Presidency Project, in 2008, more than nine out of 10 of the country’s 100 biggest newspapers endorsed a presidential candidate. By 2020, only 54 of that 100 issued an endorsement.

The Arizona Republic, a Gannett paper, decided to refocus its Editorial offering by publishing an opinion section in its print edition only three days a week. The disappearance of opinion content across many newspapers also has meant that the editorial cartoonist, a mainstay of newspapers for decades, has been marginalized. Last summer, in a single day, three Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonists were laid off, victims of the new focus away from opinion.

As an independent community newspaper supported by readers, advertisers and our generous community, we are not guided by the kind of metrics that drive decisions at national media organizations. However, like many news organizations these days, we have fewer people doing the work compared to years past. Since 2005, the journalist corps at American newspapers has experienced massive — 60% — job losses.

Our highest goal is to remain relevant and interesting to our readers — and we work hard at it with our own modest stable of reporters and editors and we continue to invest in our newsroom. Your letters and our Viewpoint columns provide a rich lode of thoughtful content for our readers week in and week out, expressing opinions and putting a spotlight on the big issues of the day. Our Editorials will aim to be relevant and interesting, and to keep them that way, we will deliver them to you on a more periodic basis. We want to enlighten where we can, and above all maintain a strong connection with our readers.

So, if you open our Opinion page one day and don’t see The Editorial, it means only that we are busily occupied in other ways, reporting and editing the news — a tradition that is 127 years old and not going anywhere. And that we will continue to focus our efforts to bring you Editorials that are worth your time to read.

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