Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Editorial blind spots

Editorial writing is, by definition, critical, but that doesn’t mean it is beyond criticism.

I’ve written a few editorials in my time. Among the craft's many challenges are word limits and establishing focus.

But focus and brevity shouldn’t result in tunnel vision.

Two examples:

Yesterday’s issue of The Portland Tribune carries an editorial titled “City needs new naming process.” The editorial board worried over whether Interstate Avenue should be renamed for César Chavez, as some in the Hispanic community have argued.

Why not name some parks after Chavez? the editorial board proposed.

The editorial concluded with these words: “Any naming — or renaming — of public places in Portland should help to better define and build a sense of community, while also serving to hone the contributions of worthy individuals. The city of Portland should have a renaming process that serves these goals better than it does today.”

The big blind spot in the editorial is the city’s selling of naming rights. How can an editorial address the “naming” issue without at least considering the decision to rename Civic Stadium “PGE Park.” And what about the other naming rights the city’s parks bureau is geared up to sell?


Second example:

In today’s Oregonian, an editorial urges rapid implementation of the State’s stiffer physical education requirements in the schools. The goal is to address “our childhood obesity epidemic.” Twenty-five percent of Oregon’s eighth graders are “overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, and that rate is on the rise,” the editorial notes.

Then the editorial goes on to say that the new PE law “is only the first step.” And what is the next step? More money for PE and pressuring school boards to implement the program.

End of discussion.

What the editorial writers fail to address is the four to five hours each day that the average child spends in front of screens. During those hours, children expend zero calories and are enticed to eat calorie-laden junk food — a huge contributor to childhood obesity and early on-set diabetes.

It’s fine to bulk up PE in the schools, but the average public school graduate will have spent more time in front of television than in the classroom — including the PE classroom.

Fighting childhood obesity begins at home, but you’d never know it reading the editorial.

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