The Columbia Journalism Review this week highlighted an entrepreneurial Portlander who's picking up the slack for newspapers around the country that can no longer afford to employ enough editorial writers.
The CJR story begins:
“Last month, an unusual disclaimer began popping up below select editorials in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. ‘This editorial,’ it read, in parentheses, ‘was commissioned from freelance editorialists and edited by the Post-Dispatch editorial board.’ Attentive readers had some questions. So did Jim Romenesko, the longtime media blogger. And soon enough it came out that the outsourced editorials had come from a little-known Oregon-based company called ‘Opinion in a Pinch.'”
The founder of Opinion in a Pinch, Portland resident Chris Trejbal, used to write editorials for the Roanoke Times in Virginia and, before that, the Bend Bulletin (where he shared an office with Erik Lukens, now the editorial page editor of The Oregonian).
While Trejbal was working in Virginia, his wife landed a job in Portland. A paucity of local journalism jobs led him to establish his company. He and three other longtime journalists now craft unsigned opinion pieces for editorial pages around the country.
Trejbal is sensitive to concerns about the quality of outsourced thinking. Some cash-strapped news organizations have resorted to hiring low-cost writers from overseas to cobble together reports based on what they can glean from the Internet.
Trejbal tells WW his product is nothing like that. He says he and his colleagues work with papers to understand local context, tone and the direction the paper is leaning on any given issue.
"I'm doing something a little bit above what somebody in India might be doing," he says. "We're often working with an editorial page where somebody's on vacation. My team is a bunch of experienced editorial writers."
And no, Portland, Trejbal and his crew are not writing for The O's editorial page.