CJ: The interview
October 05, 2011 - The tables have turned and suddenly I, the interviewer, have become the interviewee.
Oxford High School student Jessie Ojeda e-mailed me some questions Monday as part of a class assignment.
The questions are about my job as a newspaper editor. I'm always happy to help our local students and teachers whenever and however I can, so here are my answers, Jessie.
1) What responsibility or responsibilities do you think you have to your reading public?
I believe I have a responsibility to be as accurate as possible, to present all sides of a story in a balanced manner and to keep the community informed about any and all newsworthy happenings including local government meetings, school events, fund-raisers and charities, crimes, corruption, what your neighbors are up to, etc.
I'm not just a journalist, I'm a historian for Oxford and Addison. What I report on now will be used 10, 25, 50 or 100 years from now when someone wants to research the town or an event or even their own family. Today, it's a newspaper. Tomorrow, it's a historical document.
2) What do you consider the three most important elements of a successful newspaper article?
First of all, a good story must answer the following basic questions – Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Answering these basic questions is absolutely critical for any successful news story.
Next, a story must be interesting or at least written in a way that grabs people's attention and makes them want to read more. A bored reader isn't a reader for very long.
Finally, a successful news article must be factual and informative. We want readers to come away from a story knowing more about the topic than they did before.
3) How do you determine which information is newsworthy enough for publication?
The Number One criteria for publishing a story in the Leader is it absolutely, positively must be local. That means it must involve a person, place, thing, event, business or organization that's associated with Oxford Township or Village, Addison Township, Leonard Village or the Oxford school district. If it's not local, it's not in the Leader.
A story must also be relevant. It must be something that has an impact on our readership. It must be something that helps them better understand their community or some other facet of their lives. It must be something that keeps our readers informed and aware of what's going on around them. We also look for stories that are unique, funny, quirky, interesting, heartwarming or just plain bizarre.
4) What are the main criteria used for determining which Letters to the Editor the paper publishes?
We publish 95 percent of the letters we receive. We value everyone's opinion on virtually every topic.
The only instances in which we won't publish a letter are if it contains profanity, libelous statements, information which we know for a fact to be false, or if we feel a writer is beating a topic to death by making the same points over and over again, week after week. We also won't publish anonymous letters, however, sometimes we will withhold a writer's name if there's a valid reason and only if we know who they are.
Contrary to what some believe, having a letter to the editor published is not a right, it's a privilege. Everyone has a right to commit their opinion to paper, but the newspaper is under no obligation to publish it.
5) Why did you decide to become an editor?
I love to write. I want to help make my little corner of the world a better place. I want to help people. I want to stand up for the little guy and those who feel they have no voice.