Opinion articles: purposes and reactions

Makeda Barkley, Managing Editor

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What makes the opinion pages unique from the rest of a newspaper? How do the editorial staff decide what opinions warrant publication? What do the opinions expressed have to do with the staff and with the newspaper as a publication? These are a few things that seem to be misunderstood by a number of readers, particularly of small college newspapers. The truth is, the opinions pages are a platform for expressing individual opinions. In fact, even an editorial functions as the expression of an independent point of view. Although it is a piece written by a member of the newspaper staff, it remains an opinion independent of the newspaper, hence the disclaimer often found on opinion pages of any given newspaper that is usually some iteration of: “Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.”

Opinion pieces are often inflammatory or polarizing and frequently cause contention. It’s not unusual for readers to be either strongly in agreement with or deeply offended by any given piece that is published depending on the content. While it is frustrating to feel personally offended by someone else’s opinion, it’s important to remember that the article is a representation solely of the author’s opinion and not with whom they are affiliated. It is uncomfortable to feel attacked by or in strong disagreement with someone else’s opinion but part of being a mature adult is being able to take a step back and consider where these opinions are coming from, both figuratively and literally. It is completely acceptable and understandable to feel offended or victimized by someone else’s opinion, but the way that a reader chooses to act on that frustration is a pivotal moment. Can we engage in civilized disagreement through the exchange of written and articulate opinions? Or will the contempt created over a polarizing opinion — justified or not — always lead to long-lasting grudges and vicious or passive-aggressive responses?

This could be avoided if readers and authors came to the mutual understanding that opinion articles are simply that, opinions. Neither the newspaper nor the staff identify with any particular opinion piece as a collective, because even though the piece may be labeled “editorial,” all that means is that one of the staff has decided to voice their personal opinion on a public platform. 

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