Some questions for the editor

January 06, 2000

At the suggestion of Herald-Mail Publisher John League, for the past couple of years, I've tried to start each new year with a column explaining who I am, what I believe and how I operate in this job. If you've heard this before, I apologize, but there are always (we hope) new readers and it doesn't hurt me to begin the new year thinking about who I am and what I want to accomplish in the next 12 months. But just for fun, let's do this year's disclosure statement in a question-and-answer format.

Are you a native of Washington County?

No, but I'm married to one and the father of two, now teen-aged boys, one in college and one in high school. I was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in a suburb near College Park, Md., and came here as a full-time employee in May 1973.

Have you always been the editorial page editor?


No. I began work here covering the county government, following by a six-year stint as local news editor of The Daily Mail. Then I went back to reporting, covering Hagerstown's City Hall and working as a business/feature reporter on the Sunday Herald-Mail. I've been doing this job since 1987.

What's the most interesting thing you've done at The Herald-Mail?

To choose one would be tough. Covering Hurricane Agnes and its aftermath in 1972 and the struggle to bring the Gold Bond Ice Cream Company here in the mid-1980s were two of the most interesting stories, the flood story because I got to take pictures as well as write the story and Gold Bond because it was my first real close-up look at a local government's courtship of a new company.

Being local news editor was great, at times, because once that bond of trust develops between reporter and editor, and the writers know you're not going to butcher their stuff, great things can happen. Being inside all day, every day gets monotonous, however.

Would you describe yourself as a liberal or a conservative?

The older I get, the more conservative I get. I was surprised at how offended I got recently when it was suggested that it was the school system's responsibility to see that children are physically fit. As someone who's traveled to a ton of youth sporting events, both practices and games, I consider my children's health my responsibility. That sort of activity is good of parents, too, because it connects you to the community. It also put me in contact with lots of folks who weren't inclined (as are most government officials) to treat me with deference because I work for a newspaper.

Do you belong to any groups, political or otherwise?

I'm a member of the Hagerstown Exchange Club, which is a service club like the Lions or Rotary, which supports a variety of charitable activities in the community, including the Parent-Child Center, on whose board I serve.

How do you decide what to write editorials about?

The editorials usually follow news stories on an event. That way the reader gets an objective look at the event first, followed by newspaper's opinion.

The Herald-Mail doesn't believe that its point of view is the only one that should be considered, but our editorials ought be good enough to get readers thinking about the issues.

Our editorials are written with these beliefs in mind:

  • That everyone has a right to be heard.
  • That the public's business should be done in public.
  • That citizens have a right to expect fair value for their tax dollars.
  • That the law should be obeyed, and
  • That bad laws should be changed at the earliest opportunity.

Does anyone help you in your job?

Yes, there's a building full of people who help me, including everyone from the publisher in the front office to the editorial assistants on the night shift. Without them, and the 12-member citizen group that meets monthly to advise me on editorial page matters, I wouldn't do the job nearly as well.

If you could accomplish one thing in the next year, what would it be?

To get a better understanding of what readers want, and what they enjoy. Are we devoting too much space to columnists or issues that readers don't care about?

Sometimes it's hard to tell, but I've been promised that Herald-Mail is getting ready to do some research on that topic soon. In the meanitme, your suggestions and comments are welcome. Send them to Bob Maginnis, editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md., 21740, by fax at (301) 714-0245, or by e-mail at

Are you ever going to get a better picture?

Yes, as soon as possible.

Thanks, and Happy New Year.

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