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Mike Hagan: The editors speak

Well, after much badgering by my publisher and other members of the staff, I’ve finally decided to start writing a weekly column.

Actually, this space won’t always be filled with my words. It’s intended as an opportunity for myself, Assistant Editor Allyn Harvey and any other editors who want the chance to comment on current issues outside of the confines of our editorials in the Aspen Times Weekly and Friday daily.

And while the intent of this column is to comment on local and regional news and issues, it also provides an opportunity to rant on just about anything. It will also allow me a chance to announce and explain changes that we’ll be making to the paper in the coming years. I hope our readers enjoy this new column, and please feel free to call me at 925-3414 anytime to offer comment or ideas.

That said, I’ll steer away from something “newsworthy” this week and instead use this space to explain the “editorial confines” that I mentioned above. Many times over the years I’ve heard complaints that our editorials are unsigned. I’ve also been taken to task as the writer of our editorials.

While I ultimately take responsibility for the words that appear in our editorials, I’d like to explain that our editorial process is not simply me deciding that something deserves comment and then taking it upon myself to write it and send it on its way.

The reason our editorials are unsigned is because they are a group effort. We have an editorial board made up of four to five people, depending on who’s available each week. The board includes editors, the publisher and, at times, reporters.

We discuss the news of the past week, including what’s planned for the upcoming Weekly, and debate three or four stories or issues we feel need comment. These debates can get pretty lively at times, since it’s almost impossible to get an office full of news-types to agree on anything. Ultimately we come to some sort of democratic agreement and appoint someone in the group to do the initial writing.

That person can be anyone in the group, and there are weeks when I won’t do the initial writing on either of the two editorials. After the initial writing the editorial is passed on to another editor for a second writing.

It is rare, but sometimes an editorial appears in pretty much the same form as it was initially written. The second editor usually reworks much of the piece, resulting in an editorial that is far different than the original version. From that point on, it is reviewed by the publisher, sometimes a reporter close to the story in question and a final editor.

The final step is to run it through proofreading. And while the proofreader’s job is to basically look for grammatical flaws, our proofreader never hesitates to offer an opinion that could result in even more changes to the piece.

And that, in a nutshell, is why our editorials are unsigned. They are not meant to be the opinion of a single person, but that of the newspaper as an organization. That doesn’t mean everyone here agrees with the outcome, but most of the time it does represent the opinion of the majority.

[Mike Hagan is editor in chief of The Aspen Times. “Editorially Speaking” will appear each Tuesday. E-mail Hagan at hagan@aspentimes.com.]


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