Dear opinion writers:
I bet you thought it would be fun getting to write for the only section of a newspaper that’s allowed to be somewhat biased.
You probably thought the opinion desk was going to be a well-deserved break from the linear, “use the right word or else risk your journalistic integrity” writing and fact-paranoia so common in the rest of the newspaper. Heck, you don’t even need to interview people to write an opinion piece.
But instead, your writing has only fueled a passionate response from a collection of people who don’t read past the headline, would prefer to lazily comment on social media instead of writing a letter to the editor and who accuse you of being the worst journalist in the history of journalism.
The external monologue of the comment section often sounds like this:
“How dare you write an article for the opinion section that’s dripping with your personal opinion? As a journalist, it’s your job to keep your writing in the hands of the goddess ‘Neutrality’ and never comment on current events. Stick to a robotic output of content that doesn’t offend anyone.”
On the other hand, if you can’t manage to stoke the fires of controversy, your nightly prayer to the editorial gods is that your writing gets any reaction and not the dreaded, no notification-inducing article that makes you beg for even a single mad or shocked Facebook reaction. You’d even settle for a patronizing blue thumbs-up.
Then there’s the fact that everyone does indeed have an opinion, so the questions that hover over your keyboard like the quips of a demented Microsoft Office Assistant are: what makes your opinion so goddamn unique? What kind of prolonged, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing ego-trip do you have to be on to write for the opinion desk?
You think you’re special because that’s what your parents have told you your entire life and now it’s translated into your writing, apparently.
Underlying all of this is the question you ask yourself on a regular basis: what’s the point?
Any good opinion writer will tell you that the point is to start a conversation. You do all the research, make your argument, and yes, put your opinion in writing so that someone will respond, and maybe even point out something you missed.
But in the era of clickbait and trolls, it seems the only way to elicit any response, let alone conversation, is to write outlandish and against-the-grain pieces that make readers angry enough to comment. Controversy breeds very loud opinions.
Just take a look at what happened in the Daily Titan’s opinion section leading up to Milo Yiannopoulos’ appearance on campus. The number of Letters to the Editor was unprecedented.
Perhaps the conversation you’re hoping for isn’t necessarily the one that occurs within the boundaries of the newspaper or social media.
Though you have no way of knowing if your writing starts the conversations you want or affects people unless they decide to write back, maybe a part of you writes the article for yourself.
Putting your personal opinion on a slab for the public to dissect is a somewhat terrifying concept, and yet you can’t help but feel a sense of relief every time an article is published. Maybe your view of the world will resonate with someone else. Or maybe someone will disagree and offer a different perspective that might even change your mind.
Opinions are a dime a dozen, but you’ve been given a special platform that amplifies your voice; a published version of (constructively) screaming into the void.
While this practice in discourse may not lead to any significant change in opinion, at the very least it starts a conversation between yourself and a blank page. As an individual, it provides an opportunity to question and prove your own beliefs and to reflect on the conclusions you make, even in the face of someone on Twitter saying “You’re dumb.”
So maybe your opinions don’t always elicit the response you want, but at the very least no one can accuse you of staying silent and not speaking your mind.
A narcissistic, self-aggrandizing opinion writer