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Barbara Lombardo writes about journalisml, local news and anything else that strikes her fancy. She is executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News, sister papers in the Digital First Media family. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Editorial writing: An honor to be recognized, but even better to be serving the community



The professor of an editorial writing class that I took getting my master’s degree in journalism at Ohio State University taught me to avoid “we” — as in we believe, we think, we urge — and to use active verbs, declarative sentences and plain English to recommend specific courses of action, to inform and to persuade.
I like to think that those lessons have served The Saratogian community well during the years that I have been writing editorials, among many other things as managing editor.
Today, however, I just want to say, “Wow.”
Digital First Media, which manages The Saratogian and is one of the largest media companies in the country, this morning announced its inaugural awards, the “DFMies” — cute, get it? — for work done in 2012. I am honored to have been named the winner for opinion writing, one of 26 awards in what the company expects to be an annual recognition program.
“These awards are a new opportunity for Digital First Media journalists to reflect on the importance of the work we do each day,” said Jim Brady, Digital First Media’s editor-in-chief said in a DFM press release.
“The most important thing” about the awards, Brady continued, “is that they provide a reminder of why we do what we do for our communities.”
I couldn’t agree more.
But as much as I eschew self-promotion, being recognized by colleagues in the industry and in my company is nice, too. “It’s a major award,” as the father in “A Christmas Story” exclaimed while unwrapping his leg lamp.
I hasten to add that all of the journalism recognition earned by The Saratogian is truly the result of a group effort.
Editors improve the work submitted by writers, including me, and create the headlines and presentation that draw readers’ attention online and in print. Reporters and photographers gather and report the news, sports and features in words, pictures and video. The stories are the seeds for our editorials and columns. I receive constructive pre-publication feedback about my editorials from our publisher, who has final say on the positions. And both news content and opinion are often the result of tips, ideas, documentation and research by community members.
It takes time to research substantive editorials, let alone write them. I’m in the midst of collecting information for an editorial about the elementary school where an unusually high percentage of teachers have asked to be transferred. I don’t know what our position will be, but I want to understand what the specific issues are and why the school district needs to hire outside advisers. At the same time, our reporter who covers schools and business is gathering information as well, so that we can provide more news on the subject as well as opinion.
The purpose of all this is for The Saratogian to be a place people can turn to, to find out what’s going on, to share news and ideas, and to be a catalyst for positive change.
My entry in the DFMie for opinion writing consisted of a column and two editorials about the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority; some of this work was also recognized recently in a statewide journalism award.
In receiving a DFMie, The Saratogian is in good company, large and small.
The largest member of our group in Digital First Media, the Denver Post, won the 2012 DFMie for breaking news for its coverage of the theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., for which it also received a Pulitzer Prize. And, for instance, among other smaller publications in DFM, the Berkshire Eagle in nearby Pittsfield, Mass., won the 2012 DFMie for sports journalism for a project on concussions in football.
Excellent work is happening in newsrooms everywhere, coupled with an emphasis on getting and spreading the news through websites and social media. This is an exciting and challenging time in journalism.
It is an honor to be recognized, but it's even better to be serving the community.

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