As Publishers Daily reported last month, McClatchy is expanding the op-ed sections of its 30 media properties after seeing subscription growth for the Kansas City Star. The company assigned Colleen Nelson, editorial page editor at the newspaper, to oversee the transformation at its other publications.
Nelson has developed a formula for successful opinion writing she shared with Rick Edmonds, media business columnist for Poynter.
She recommends that op-ed pieces include original reporting, rather than just provide commentary on stories that appear elsewhere in the newspaper. As an example, the Kansas City Star ran a series of editorials about Mayor Sly James' plan to award a no-bid contract for airport improvements to a local engineering firm.
As a result of the Star's reporting, the contract was opened to other bidders, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Local newspapers also need to focus on their connections to the communities they serve and avoid editorials about national issues, Nelson recommends.
While there is a place for commentary about national issues that apply to local communities, it isn't necessary for city newspapers to weigh in on subjects that are covered by every other pundit.
People are inundated with national news and commentary from across the political spectrum. The news marketplace yearns for fresh perspectives about local events that don't receive coverage from major news organizations.
As local newspapers struggle to regain relevance and readers, McClatchy's formula for boosting subscriptions with hard-hitting opinion journalism is compelling.