"All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced upon them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else."
Remarkably enough, those are not the words of a politican. They are the words of a journalist -- either Baltimore's patron saint of journalism or its most annoying historical sorehead, depending on your viewpoint: H.L. Mencken, former editorial page editor of the The Evening Sun and editor of The Sunday Sun and The Evening Sun.
I say "with regard to the editorial pages" specifically, because the opinion pages are completely separate from the paper's news pages. This is true not just at The Sun, but at every worthwhile paper in the country. It's that separation of news and opinion that maintains the independence and integrity of the editorial side and the objectivity and integrity of the news side.
The editorial page is the real soul of the newspaper. It is the voice of The Sun, not of any one individual, and it reflects the paper's abiding values and core concerns. It speaks for the publisher, but in a broader sense, it speaks for The Sun and its history --- thus, our editorials have no bylines.
The "voice" that I speak of is articulated by The Sun's editorial board, which consists of the editorial page editors, editorial writers, the letters editor and the op-ed page editor. We meet each morning, Monday through Thursdayb, to talk about news events, policies and areas of interest that we should be weighing in on editorially. We are fortunate to have a great range, among our board members, of knowledge, expertise and experience, which makes for lively discussion and cogent, informed opinion. Voices may be raised , but crockery is rarely broken.
Our goal is to reach concensus, based on what we know, what we think, and what The Sun has said in the past. An institutional voice must be consistent, so we are ever mindful of the historical record. That doesn't mean we can't change direction, but we do so carefully and with great thought.
We aren't always trying to change someone's mind --- to be querulous or bellicose, as Mencken would have it. Sometimes we are trying to help our readers sort out a complicated issue, or explain the elements of something that needs a closer look.
It is not the role of The Sun's editorial page to espouse one political viewpoint, but rather to educate, inform and persuade our readers and those who make decisions that affect our readers' lives. But here are some of the things we stand for: freedom of speech, the rule of law, fair play, comfort for the afflicted, a preference for peace over war, a commitment to pass on a healthier world to our children. The Sun's editorial mission is to promote the betterment of the city of Baltimore, the region and the nation.
The making of an opinion
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