A column, an editorial and a news story walk into a bar.

“Hey,” the news story says. “Why does everybody think I’m you guys?”

“Beats me,” the column replies. “Y’all don’t even live on the same page as us.”

OK, so the editorial board should stay out of the standup business. But it’s true that in the news industry, columns and editorials are very different from news reports, and the differences aren’t always well understood by the general public.

So let’s take a closer look.

Most, if not all, news outlets publish more than just news. You’ll hear both the hourly news reports and the “talking heads” on the radio, the one pretty much sticking with the facts and the other freely giving opinions. TV is filled with both regular news segments and personality-centered talk shows. And of course, newspapers have editorials and columnists in addition to news reports.

But in newspapers, we try very hard to keep the two separate. That way our readers of all political stripes can remain confident that what we publish as news does, in fact, clearly and accurately depict a given situation.

This is how we do so: Opinions, especially politically relevant ones, get their own special page labeled “Opinion” and that’s where they stay. News doesn’t get put there, though some of the opinion pieces might reference facts you could find in news reports. But because they’re on the opinion page, the authors of those pieces are free to give their opinion about those facts. You, too, are free to disagree with the authors and write in your opinions as a letter to the editor, which would also appear on the opinion page.

There are two kinds of opinions you’ll find on opinion pages: columns and editorials. Editorials, like this one, represent the official view of the newspaper that’s publishing them. It’s as if the Progress sent you a statement on letterhead saying “this is what we think.” In our case, the Progress puts a “standing” headline that marks an editorial like this as “our viewpoint” so there’s no confusion.

Columns, on the other hand, do not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board or even other members of the Progress’ staff. They are instead the opinions of the columnists who write them, like syndicated columnists Dave McNeely and Steven Roberts or Jacksonville’s own local columnists Matt Montgomery and Mike McEwen. Given that the columnists regularly take opposite positions, it would be hard never to disagree with them! But we believe it’s important to represent a variety of viewpoints so that you, the reader, can decide which analysis you find most compelling and discover the strong points of an argument you disagree with. We mark columns with a photo of the columnist, or a byline if a photo isn’t available, and you’ll find a summary of the columnist’s expertise in small, bold print at the end of a column.

Thanks for reading!


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