Does it matter?

Everybody has opinions. But only a few people get paid to write them up for publication in newspapers.

What does it take to be one of those few? What’s it like to be part of a group whose job is to sway people to a certain way of thinking on particular issues? And what’s it like to produce writing that’s supposed to represent the “institutional opinion” of a big daily newspaper?

When SN&R staff writer Jeffrey M. Barker said he was interested in seeking answers to these questions in the case of The Sacramento Bee, I said, “Sure, go for it.” Secretly, though, I didn’t think he’d get the access he’d need to write about what goes on inside the Bee’s so-called Ivory Tower. Why would that paper’s editorial-board members allow him close? (In case you hadn’t noticed, SN&R has taken its fair share of potshots at Sacramento’s mainstream daily over the years.)

Well, Barker surprised me by getting entree and all the interviews he desired. Check out his story “Inside the Bee’s Ivory Tower,” to find out how things really work over on 21st and Q streets when it comes to the Bee’s opinion pages.

In the process of searching out the nuts and bolts, Barker also explored a more crucial theme: Does any of it really matter anyway? Are the “institutional opinions” expressed by newspapers relevant anymore to readers and communities?

The question is a big one for people in the ink-on-paper industry these days, as big dailies across the country continue to lose readers like crazy, especially young ones. And when polled, young readers almost uniformly find editorial pages to be dead, flat, boring.

Truthfully, it’s a question for us at SN&R, too. As many of you know, the paper you’re now holding in your hands also publishes a weekly editorial page. We’ve thought of getting rid of it plenty of times over the years, but, so far, we’ve always come back around to feeling the page is an inexorable part of our identity.

But as for whether any of it matters, I guess that’s for readers to decide.