This appeared in Editor and publisher Magazine.
While change can be difficult, the New York Times’ decision to remove the term “Op-Ed” promotes clear communication with a new generation of readers and is a step other newspapers should consider taking. Originally derived from the location of the article opposite a newspaper editorial, the designation “Op-Ed” no longer makes intuitive sense to readers who increasingly turn to digital platforms for their news. To be honest, I had to google the meaning of “Op-Ed” for this essay.
Data from a 2020 Pew Research Center survey shows that more than half of Americans prefer to get information on a digital platform, compared to just 5% who prefer print. Replacing “Op-Ed” with the easier-to-understand “Guest Essay” adopted by The Times will reduce the need for this type of explanation. In an age of fake news, alleged fake news, click bait and confusion, anything that increases clarity should be welcomed.
Changing this term also promotes Op-Ed’s goal of presenting views that differ from the newspaper’s official position. According to media historian Michael Socolow, modern Op-Ed architect John Oakes conceived the idea because he believed newspapers have a social responsibility to act independently and invite dissent. This can only be accomplished if readers understand that Op-Eds are written without the censorship of a newspaper’s main editorial board. A term such as “Guest Essay” would help the public quickly perceive this distinction.
For the sake of readability, it makes sense that newspapers begin to replace the term “Op-Ed” in their publications. In this process, however, a single solution is unlikely to be the most effective. For small town newspapers that still rely primarily on print circulation, such a change may not be necessary for years. Ultimately, this decision is, and should be, left to individual publications. Nonetheless, as the epicenter of the news industry moves online, it would be advantageous for newspapers to consider any adjustments that could help them be successful in the long run.
Grace Snell, 20, is a student at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, specializing in digital storytelling with minors in German and studio art.
The Day’s Editorial Board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and meets weekly to formulate editorial perspectives. It is made up of President and Editor Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Editor-in-Chief Izaskun E. Larrañeta, Editor Erica Moser and retired Associate Editor. Lisa McGinley. However, only the editor and the editor of the editorial page are responsible for the preparation of editorial notices. The board operates independently of the Day newsroom.