Editor demystifies the opinion and editorial pages of ‘Nation’

Thursday February 15 2018

newspaper opinions

A vendor sells a copy of the Daily Nation in Nyeri Town on August 14, 2017. In the Nation, The Cutting Edge column is compiled by an anonymous senior editor known as The Watchman from readers’ observations. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Probably no other part of the newspaper attracts as many queries from readers and would-be writers as the opinion pages.

“This is to request you to kindly advise me on how to have my article published. I would like to be guided on how best to have my writing catch the editor’s eye,” Josphat Misoi writes.

“What’s the procedure of submitting an article with you?...I’m requesting the email am supposed to use and the requirements,” Hamdi Yussuf Hussein says.

I asked former senior sub-editor Mwiti Marete, a Kiswahili poet published under the pen name Malenga wa Mlima Meru, and Economic Commission for Africa-sponsored African Information Society Initiative (AISI) Media Award winner, who was on February 1 named the new Op-Ed Editor, to explain opinion pages to readers.

What is an Op-ed?

“Op-ed”, a term popularised by The New York Times in the 1970s, was originally used to describe a piece of writing, which expresses a personal opinion on the page opposite the editorial.

Although the term meant “opposite editorial”, today it’s used as a catchall for opinion articles.

Op-eds, which include letters to the editor, express the writer’s views on matters of public interest, and should, ideally, suggest solutions. 

The editorial is the newspaper’s opinion on a matter of public interest.

It’s normally written by the Editorial Board, a team of senior editors, and approved by the Editor-in-Chief.


The Cutting Edge column is compiled by an anonymous senior editor known as The Watchman from readers’ observations, mainly whistleblower reports of corruption, ineptitude, discrimination and such ills that go against societal norms, as well as complaints over poor customer service, inappropriate utterances by public figures, et cetera.

Opinions are written by contracted and other regular columnists, as well as guest writers.

The Op-Ed page also contains a cartoon drawn by a contracted illustrator.  

Letters to the Editor are used to vent, praise, enquire, suggest, or even teach other readers.

What is the role of an opinion editor?

Coordinating, sourcing, planning, editing and placing opinion articles and editorials.

What criteria do you use to select what to publish?

The article has to be factual, topical, relevant, catchy, novel, balanced and make a point.

What are the reasons for rejecting article?

If the article is vulgar, immoral, irrelevant, libellous, malicious, run-of-the-mill, shallow, regurgitated, plagiarised, inconclusive or insensitive or insulting to a certain race, religion, ethnicity or gender.

We do not publish articles or letters from anonymous writers.

What writing and presentation rules should contributors observe?

An opinion article has to be neither too long nor too short (about 800 words), in simple, clear grammatical English, and submitted via email, preferably as an MS Word attachment.

If possible, it should be accompanied by a good quality head shot (mugshot or a photo of the face) of the author.

Letters to the Editor, as well as to The Watchman, should ideally be 300 words.

The Nation publishes the contributor’s contacts at the end of the article: The email address for opinions and Cutting Edge pieces, and the country or county from which the reader is writing from in the case of Letters to the Editor.

Opinions may be sent to [email protected] and Letters to the Editor through [email protected]

The Watchman is ever awake – in order to look out for you – through [email protected]

The NMG does NOT charge to publish opinions or letters and pays only for articles from contracted columnists.

Next week, Mr Marete answers questions on the number of articles he receives, percentage accepted for publication, acknowledgement of receipt of articles, complaints, and gives advice to contributors.

Send your complaints to [email protected] Text or call 0721 989 264.