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There’s a lot of difference between a news story, an editorial and a column

Undated historical photo of staff writers at the Spokesman-Review. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Undated historical photo of staff writers at the Spokesman-Review. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Judging by online comments, there’s a lot of confusion about the different parts of a news report – is it a story, an editorial, or a column?

When people got their news exclusively from the printed newspaper it was much easier to differentiate. An editorial appeared on the Opinion page. A local news columnist’s work looked different from a regular news article, usually because it included the columnist’s photo. Those visual cues aren’t as apparent online.

And while someone from Spokane likely knows Doug Clark or Shawn Vestal are columnists, a person reading their work on the other side of the country probably doesn’t.

Here are the definitions most journalists used for the different kinds of content:

News story

This is the plain vanilla of journalism – reporting about something. It might be a news conference, a disaster, a trend, a personality profile or an investigation. The more complicated or controversial the topic, the more sources the story should include. And a news story should try to convey the essence of the event or the issue from all perspectives.

Editorial

These run on the Opinion page and reflect the consensus view of Publisher Stacey Cowles and Opinion Editor Gary Crooks on local, regional and national matters, including candidate endorsements before elections. Cowles doesn’t work in the newsroom, and while Crooks does, he doesn’t answer to or share his work with Editor Rob Curley or any other news staff prior to publication.

Column

Like most midsized and large newsrooms, The Spokesman-Review has news columnists. These are people who are paid to share their opinions on local and regional news topics. Doug Clark frequently takes a humorous look at the day’s news, while Shawn Vestal usually writes about policy, politics and government. Dave Oliveria focuses on community events in North Idaho. And Sue Lani Madsen – who is a freelancer, not a staff writer – typically looks at policy issues from a conservative perspective. Other columnists for The Spokesman-Review whose work sometimes appears in the news pages include John Blanchette in Sports and Paul Turner in Arts & Entertainment.


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