What goes into coming up with a winning editorial topic

One of the highlights of my week is Monday after lunch, when our editorial board crowds around the conference table in OSV president and publisher Greg Erlandson’s office to identify and flesh out a topic for our editorial. 

Msgr. Owen F. Campion, a Nashville priest and veteran Catholic newsman who serves as our associate publisher, holds court at one end of the table, leaning dangerously far back in a chair. He has an intricate knowledge of Church matters and a love for Church history (actually, all history).  

Sarah Hayes, our presentation editor and current affairs expert, holds court at the other. 

Editorial director Beth McNamara is on the road so much that she usually has to join us by conference call. Hers is usually the voice of the person in the pew, having worked for years as director of religious education in a Minnesota parish, and having never lost that passion and perspective. 

The publisher and I sit across from each other along the longer side of the oval table, our notes and article clippings fanned around us. 

Our group is occasionally (but always fruitfully) joined by one of the other periodical managers, York Young, who tends to sit some feet back from the table to where you almost forget he’s present until he clears his throat and speaks up.

The conversations are wide-ranging and energetic. Mining for topics, we usually first run through the list of articles in the current OSV Newsweekly issue, and then we review some of the other hot stories in the news. 

To give you an idea, this week we talked about: immigration reform and Arizona’s new immigration law (Page 4); the perennial issue of bullying and now cyberbullying (Page 5); a statement by the University of Notre Dame about pro-life protesters it arrested at last year’s graduation (Page 6); and the latest in the clerical sex abuse crisis (Page 14), especially Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to take control of the Legionaries of Christ, which is reeling from revelations of criminal and immoral behavior by its late founder. 

Then, as a nearby television flashed images of the oil slick covering a huge swath of the Gulf of Mexico, we homed in on the tragedy for the environment and local economies, but also the incredible nexus of competing interests that has so paralyzed our country’s ability to come up with a sustainable and responsible energy policy. 

And what conclusions can we draw exactly from the wealth of Catholic thought? When the discussion got a little heated, we knew this had to be the topic we wrote about. 

I wish you could have been there for the conversation, but you still do have a chance to participate. Send me a letter to the editor with your thoughts on our editorial (or, of course, on any of the other stories in this issue). Welcome to the discussion!  

As always, I look forward to hearing from you at feedback@osv.com.