The Salina Journal has taken away the bylines on every single editorial that will be published in the newspaper, the reason being that Journal editorials don’t just express the writer’s opinion: they express the Journal’s.
According to the Journal’s release of this information on Oct. 6, “[Use of bylines is] a practice that was put in place on the theory that readers might want to know who was writing the opinion. But it has become increasingly apparent that the opinions written with a name attached have been construed as the writer’s opinion, and that writer’s alone.”
The Salina Journal is trying to say that members of the editorial board have agreed with that writer and his or her opinion therefore is the Journal’s own opinion now.
The Journal went on to say that, “In point of fact, that opinion has been agreed upon by more than one person, including editor and publisher M. Olaf Frandsen. And oftentimes other top-level newsroom administrators have chimed in.”
If you think like I do, then when reading this you probably wondered how every single person representing the Salina Journal could possibly have the same opinion. A whole newspaper could have an opinion if and only if every employee believed in the same core principles. If the editors agree with the writer, why can’t the writer state that? To take away the byline is cowardly on the newspaper’s part.
In the same editorial about no longer having bylines on editorials, the Journal said that opinion pieces lead to rebuttal if a byline is attached because the personality of the writer is a factor to readers, especially if the writer is well known within the area. They said that by removing bylines, they hope to cause more debate about the subject matter because that should be the purpose of opinion pieces, rather than the person stating their opinion.
I believe that the Salina Journal is hurting their credibility as a newspaper by doing this. Readers enjoy knowing that reporters are people too. We aren’t untouchable and inhuman. Reporters are consistently out talking to people and networking for stories to submit to the general public. The opinion page is where reporters can express views that we hold and defend them with research and statistics. If a reader disagrees with that writer, that’s fine.
A newspaper as a whole, however, needs to be objective. The Salina Journal is not being objective when they take away bylines and say that they hold that opinion as a newspaper.
For example, what if the published opinion piece is about something controversial, like LGBT issues, but on the very next page is a supposedly nonpartisan news piece about the LGBT community? A reader is going to jump to the conclusion that the newspaper is not being objective. In this situation, the newspaper could be considered biased and then could be accused of discrimination because of its inability to provide a writer’s name.
Maria Betzold is a junior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.