“In newspapers, editorials are clearly stated opinions or beliefs with facts lingering throughout.”

Sometimes it’s fun to look a word up in a good dictionary even though you know perfectly well what it means. I did that just now, for “linger,” and found the most delightfully-worded #2 definition in Webster’s Collegiate: “to remain alive although waning or gradually dying.” Now, that is a definition I knew, but it’s not the one that has presented itself when I’ve read this student’s sentence on previous occasions: I usually think of those facts as being “slow in parting” (def. #1), like the party guests who don’t seem to pick up the cues from the yawning host and the tidying-up hostess (or vice versa, of course) and say Yes, they will have just one more, or who pause on the porch stairs to tell just one more anecdote. Thanks to this morning’s Webster’s Moment, I can now also see them as palely languishing on the couch, their grip on their drinks ever more tenuous, the back of the other hand laid weakly and elegantly across the brow, like so many Gorey ladies.

In today’s news climate and already-long election season, both definitions of “linger” would apply well to the facts in many an editorial or Op Ed—or political speech, for that matter. Plenty of opinions and beliefs, doing their damnedest to persuade the facts to go home or die; facts resisting, clinging to the banister or clinging to life but ultimately doomed to depart. At least in “newspaper editorials,” the opinions or beliefs ARE usually clearly stated, although not all editors go on to clearly state the reasons for those opinions. Op Eds usually offer reasons and sometimes even evidence. Political speeches might present pretty good arguments, or they might not go beyond ambiguous assertions of belief, with code words crowding out any lingering facts.

The reader’s job is to sort them all out, and perhaps to demand that the facts be permitted to stay as long as they like, or even to ask that more facts be invited to the party—and once there, that they be given all they need to stay alive.

The writer’s job, of course, is to choose her words carefully, letting the facts “inform” the opinions, or “support” the beliefs, or “explain” the situation about which the opinion is being uttered, rather than setting them to “linger throughout,” randomly interposing their fading selves among the clear opinions where they’re not wanted.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

3 responses to ““In newspapers, editorials are clearly stated opinions or beliefs with facts lingering throughout.”

  • slightlyreworded

    Nice column. I sometimes find online news difficult to sort through because of the 24/7 news cycle. With a newspaper, I can just turn to the front page to find the top stories. It’s one of the reasons I still like to read them.

    Jimmy

    http://www.slightlyreworded.wordpress.com

    • RAB

      I’m with you. I also like the serendipitous discovery of events I hadn’t thought I was interested in, and the ease of going back to reread later. I like the feel of a newspaper too: I can still see my father sitting in his easy chair, paper in his outstretched hands, and my mother at the kitchen table, paper folded to bring the crossword up.

  • yearstricken

    I love the word picture of the splendidly dressed facts, suddenly taken ill by all the twaddle, and now barely hanging on, fanning themselves ever more slowly.

    We used to get the paper everyday, now only on Sundays. I love to read through it, do the crossword, read the want ads, and sometimes the obituaries. There’s something about the feel of the paper, the page-turning, and the folding and re-folding.

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