As a captivating genre, newspapers editorials pose articulated viewpoints at a given time in history in no more than 700 words each. Usually unsigned and without the use of the personal pronoun “I” or jargon, they represent a newspaper’s opinion on a current, burning issue and manifest the standpoints of the editorial board which is, in general, made up of editors and business managers. As stated by Boukala, editorials “vividly circumscribe a scene in which real-life characters convincingly deliver their own lines but with the resulting effect that leaves readers with the newspaper’s own position” (2019, p.1).
By nature, newspapers editorials look at different domains of life from a socio-political perspective and their purpose is to act upon the public’s opinion, advocate critical judgement, and sometimes incite the audience to take action on a certain stance.
In their core, editorials are opinion discourses and can be of four types such as explanation or interpretation (devoted to analyze why and how a newspaper took a certain position on a debatable topic), criticism (devoted to evaluate decisions or actions made on a mediator’s part besides proposing a better solution), persuasion (devoted to move the reader to take action, concentrating on solutions), and praise (devoted to acclaim organizations and people who have accomplished something outstanding in a community).
Thus, newspapers editorials are opinionated news stories whose writers elaborate an argument and aim to influence the audience of their point of view. In this sense, Masroor and Ahmad claim that “in opinion discourse like newspaper editorials, written arguments exhibit an interesting interplay of linguistic features and strategies to achieve the communicative purpose of persuading the audience” (2017, p.83).
With the aim of catching the audience’s attention, newspaper editorial writers make use of argument strategies by means of logic and evidence to build a case for their specific claim. Hence, within the argument framework, Vestergaard, for example, lists five functions, namely, proposals, evaluations, predictions, interpretations and causal explanations, which he claims as “non-verifiable illocution types” (2000, p.103-5). However, according to Reynolds, “predictions and evaluations are ever present in the argumentation of editorials” (2000, p.30).
One unique feature of newspaper editorials is their headline as it summarizes the content of the entire editorial. Reah, for instance, claims that editorial headlines stirs the “readers’ curiosity” (2002, p.112) while for van Dijk, it “plays an important role in monitoring readers’ attention, perception, and reading process” (1988, p.59).
Another salient feature of newspaper editorials is their positioning within the newspaper. They are usually situated at a inside page, or they might even be on the newspaper’s front page, are noticeably separated from other textual writings like feature articles and readers’ letters, and are frequently accompanied by the paper’s logo and the date of their publication. They have their own distinguished, peculiar layout, and nowadays they are accompanied, most of the time, by illustrations followed by a caption.
Personally speaking, I find newspaper editorials superb pieces of writing. As an assiduous reader of the print version of the Financial Times and the online version of The Guardian, I find myself very often reading the editorials of both newspapers.
Newspaper editorials fascinate me in the sense that they provide me with real facts and arguments that most of the time make me think deeply about an issue and it does so in such a strong way that propels me into good debate.
Frankly speaking, I do not see myself as a newspaper editor in the future. Definitely, I do not pursue such a goal in my life. However, the process of “dissecting” newspaper editorial in the Studies in English Composition course will for sure help me see editorial writing with critical eyes.