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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 7, 2010

Expect some surprises on editorial pages

By Mark Platte

The editorial page comes under new leadership tomorrow with the return of Jim Kelly, the former Pacific Business News editor who worked with us at The Advertiser from 1997 to 2004, when he served in top newsroom management positions here.

In discussions with Kelly, publisher Lee Webber, deputy editorial page editor Stephen Downes and myself, we wrestled with the relevance of the modern editorial pages in 2010 in an era where one's opinions no matter how ill-informed or outrageous are encouraged on radio call-in talk shows, television, blogs and online chats, not to mention the myriad social networking tools available to us these days.

Even the terms "editorial pages" or "op-ed" (opposite the editorial page) are somewhat anachronistic and have been replaced by phrases like "community conversation" and "community involvement," meaning our views should be part of a dialogue with our readers rather than a monologue.

But editorial pages, in our view, are more relevant than ever as we rise above the cacophony and seek to put fresh and relevant perspectives on the issues of the day.

Weak and lazy editorials are those that do not take a stand, those that urge nothing more than further study, that invite opposing sides of an issue to sit down and come to an agreement without suggesting where to start or worse yet, regurgitate a problem and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

Editorials should be clear and concise and able to state articulately what the issue is and how we intend to fix it.

Enter Kelly, whose opinions agree with them or not will stake a claim and not waste the precious time it took you to read them.

"The editorial pages drive discussions and action in this community," Kelly wrote in an outline of what he would do to improve our editorial pages. "To do this requires a recalibration of the opinion pages to make them more energetic, enlightening and entertaining. As a voice of community leadership, editorials must be built on a foundation of thoughtful reporting and common sense. They must be tight, bright and blunt."

In the coming weeks and months, we aim to give readers something new and different. More local and less frequently heard voices are a start. Also in the works are better-designed pages that are easier to digest, a diversity of themes and perhaps a different take on some old Advertiser opinions .

"What do people talk about?" Kelly said. "Work, money, families, faith, sports, technology, health, even lousy customer service and the weather. Those topics need to leaven the daily lineup."

Editorial pages mean many things to many people but they should never be boring and predictable and dominated by the same old power brokers. Look for some surprises soon.

Mark Platte is senior vice president and editor of The Advertiser. Reach him at 525-8080 or e-mail him at mplatte@honoluluadvertiser.com. Or follow his Twitter updates at www.twitter.com/markplatte.