The difference between an article, editorial and guest column | Editorial

What is the difference between a staff-generated newspaper article, an editorial and a guest column?

Staff articles are written by Journal and Sounder reporters who have experience with storytelling, ethics, newspaper writing style and formatting. These articles aim to provide two equal sides of an issue with an objective eye. Reporters also look for ways to hook their reader so that the story is interesting. This does not mean we are attempting to sensationalize or make a story inaccurate, but rather, we are using effective writing like painting a picture using color or by drawing the reader in with questions that will be answered throughout the piece.

We are often told that we run stories of a shocking or controversial nature to generate newspaper sales. This is not true. Our papers create funds by advertising and usually, advertisers are drawn to feel-good stories.

The cost of the paper, 75 cents, has not risen in about 25 years in an effort to represent democracy in the belief that everyone should be able to afford the news. While many other papers charge for their online sites, we have decided to make ours free. Our circulation numbers are deeply rooted in loyal subscribers and that has not changed drastically in the last seven years, so we can clearly conclude that stories do not affect our papers’ sales.

An editorial is an opinion piece also written by our staff. The editorial can be found in the editorial section of The Journal, on page 6, where we publish letters, guest columns and a cartoon. This section is clearly marked as the opinion section. This section gives us an opportunity to state our opinion on what will best serve the community and why. If letters and guest columns are on other pages due to space, they are always labeled. We also offer criticism of elections, organizations and other community issues. We do this as a way to encourage others to take a stand and have an opinion. It is in no way a reflection of how the rest of the paper is prepared for publication.

Guest columns must be 500 words or less and have an author who lives in the county. They are generally submitted to the paper without prompting. The paper’s staff will review these columns for liability purposes; we have to walk the line between allowing the community to voice their opinions and endangering the wellbeing of those affected by the columns. The value of guest columns is that they are clearly labeled opinion pieces and should not be construed as fact.

We would like to know from our readers, do you think that the guest columns are clearly opinion-driven or are you often confused when they appear in the paper?

Email your feelings on the topic to