Anatomy of an Editorial

Here’s a Newsday editorial. While there’s no strict formula, the following outline can help you organize your information. Remember to address the most convincing points made by people who disagree with you and spell out your counter-arguments.

Below the editorial, you will see how each of these is accomplished.

  • Introduce the subject.
  • State your bottom line.
  • Spell out your prescription.
  • Provide enough background and facts so that a reader who has no prior knowledge of your subject will understand what you’re talking about.
  • End with a solid “kicker” that reiterates your opinion in one pithy sentence.

    Don’t Make Paupers of Lawyers Who Help the PoorCompensation for court-appointed lawyers in New York State is so paltry that it risks making a mockery of the right to counsel. Attorneys who defend the poor shouldn’t be driven into poverty themselves. Give them a raise.

    Since 1986, lawyers for indigent people charged with crimes in the state have been paid $40 an hour for courtroom appearances and $25 an hour for work done outside court. Only one state pays less. Attorneys assigned cases in federal court get more. So do New York’s court-appointed psychologists, social workers and, in some instances, investigators.

    State court officials have proposed raising pay for assigned counsel to $75 an hour for felony cases and $65 an hour for misdemeanors. That’s modest compared to the $175 to $300 an hour the state pays outside lawyers to handle work for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or the dormitory authority. The state Legislature should authorize the increase and Albany should pick up the additional cost.

    Local governments currently pay assigned counsel. They should continue to put up the same amount as now. To make up the difference, court officials want to tap the surcharge paid by everyone convicted of a crime. It would be an appropriate use of that $70 million, which now goes to the state’s general fund.

    The number of lawyers willing to work for the pittance that New York now mandates has declined dramatically. Those who accept the work tend to be inexperienced and overburdened. Proceedings are often delayed as they run from courtroom to courtroom, juggling their schedules to keep their practices afloat.

    Justice is elusive when the only thing between a defendant and a prison cell is a harried lawyer barely seen or heard before appearing in court. Everyone accused of a crime has a right to a lawyer. That lawyer shouldn’t be the lowest-paid person in the courtroom.

    ©2000 Newsday Inc. Reprinted with permission. www.newsday.com


    Introduce the subject: Compensation for court-appointed lawyers in New York State is so paltry that it risks making a mockery of the right to counsel.

    State the bottom line: Attorneys who defend the poor shouldn’t be driven into poverty themselves.

    Provide background and facts: Paragraphs 2, 3, 4.

    Spell our your prescription: Give them a raise.

    Tie it up with the kicker: Everyone accused of a crime has a right to a lawyer. That lawyer shouldn’t be the lowest-paid person in the courtroom.