Daily Herald editors discuss balance in political stories
Editors at the Daily Herald strive for balance in articles involving politics, and that can be especially difficult when dealing with late-breaking stories from news services just minutes before deadline, explained two night-shift editors at a Facts Matter presentation this week.
The husband-and-wife team of Assistant Managing Editor Neil Holdway and News Editor Michelle Holdway provided insight Wednesday on how Daily Herald staff members make important news decisions. The session, titled Editing for Politics, was the fourth in a series of Facts Matter presentations at Northwest Suburban High School District 214's headquarters in Arlington Heights.
The Holdways offered real-life examples of decisions they've had to make about stories on deadline. The Daily Herald subscribes to several news services and has partnerships with other organizations, and Neil Holdway said news services lean more heavily on anonymous sources.
He recalled a recent example of a late Washington Post story that said Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was going to say in testimony to Congress regarding relations with Ukraine that his text message to another diplomat clarifying that there had been no quid pro quo from President Donald Trump was actually relayed to him by Trump in a phone call. It was a story based on the word of one anonymous source. In the end, night desk editors decided not to run the story.
"We had to ask how necessary is it to rush this into the paper with just a single anonymous source, knowing especially that Sondland was going to testify later in the week," Neil Holdway said.
Daily Herald editors also watch out for instances where the reporter makes assumptions about a person's thoughts or feelings, Neil Holdway said. He cited a wire service story where the reporter wrote that Trump was obsessed about the size of the crowd at his inauguration.
"We don't know what's in his head," Neil Holdway said. "Those are the kinds of lines we want to take out of stories. We just want to report the facts, write how many times he has tweeted about something and let you draw the conclusion about whether he's obsessed about it."
Michelle Holdway led the crowd through a series of photographs of major politicians and discussed how she and other night desk editors choose which photo to run with which story. She showed a slide with four images of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat. In one image, she was asking a pointed question; in another, she appeared to be angrily lashing out at reporters. The third showed her relaxed and determined, and in the fourth she was on stage addressing a large crowd.
"There is a lot to read into these faces, and all of those things can be true," Michelle Holdway said. "These are the things we confront every single day."
The program Wednesday was the final of four in the paper's Facts Matter series. The series covered what is at stake for local news operations and the communities they serve given the downturn in the newspaper industry over the last 15 years, how Daily Herald photographers use drones to help cover news and how readers can best sort fact from fiction during campaign season.