A week or so ago one of my classmates tweeted that her press release had been used as an Omaha World-Herald editorial. No offense to her but my gut reaction wasn’t pleasant. It’s bad practice to simply slap a press release in the editorial section. But I got to thinking and decided that is analysis, or opinion was added to the press release, it isn’t out of line to publish the release in the editorial section. The link was dead by the time I tried to investigate, so I gave the OWH the benefit of the doubt.

However, today I began searching the for state issue editorials and was forced to trudge through several pieces that read just like press releases. Some tackle quality topics but read more like a news story, and neglect any analysis. Many of these have about one line of opinion in the entire article. I’ll list some examples below.

  • This editorial is about a local boy who is up for the American Spirit Award. If some quotes were added, would it be any different from a news story?
  • Pheasants and fans may sound like a hip new band, but as an editorial is only mustered about one line of opinion. If anything it’s an advertisement for pheasant hunting.
  • Diversify the mix takes on a hot topic– alternative fuel. And it does so with the enthusiasm that compressed natural gas usually elicits. It’s another editorial that squeaked out of a press release.

Now, I don’t mean to come down too hard. There are certainly some interesting editorials on the OWH website. But much of what I found, editorials crafted from press releases with only slight additions, troubles me. Isn’t there enough going on in the world for us to fill our editorial pages with meaningful discussion and debate.

Much of what I found in the editorial section would be better placed in other areas of the paper. The local boy scout would make a good feature story. The alternative fuel and pheasants editorial could be tackled as real news. But mixing the editorial content with other articles only further blurs the distinction between editorials, news, and advertisements.

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