As I’ve stated before, I did not set out on my college voyage seeking to become a journalist, journalism found me.
The first time I walked into the J-School at Troy University, I never imagined that a decade later I’d be a regularly paid newsman.
But, nonetheless, that’s exactly what I am.
During my time in school, we took a plethora of classes about every facet of journalism – an intro to photo journalism, a journalism history course, a class on how to write obits and, my personal favorite, the Editorial Page class.
The Editorial Page was a course that students took to learn how to write opinion pieces, a necessary course since so much of the program is based on learning the inverted pyramid and AP style.
Quickly, I figured out that being a Columnist was what I wanted most in this world, to just be able to write my opinion in 300 to 500 words to be printed on newspapers.
What they didn’t teach me in The Editorial Page is that, while writing opinion pieces gives writers immense freedom of expression and the “power of the pen,” it also opens one up to extreme criticism.
A whole lot of criticism.
I should have been able to surmise as much, as opening yourself up to just a couple of people brings about the possibility for criticism, but I never considered why some journalists prefer not to write opinion pieces.
You see, news stories are clean, orderly and easy – there are facts, a time-line, people talking and things happening, and as long as you can document all of that accurately, you’ve written an effective and efficient news story.
The only opinion one can have about a news story based on facts and time-lines is whether it is well-written or not.
By contrast, opinion pieces are just the opposite – they’re controversial and messy, they’re mini-controlled burns that often rage into an inferno.
Thus, a thousand different people can have a thousand different opinions about it – they can agree or disagree, they can pick and choose parts to agree or disagree with, they can even hate your guts personally.
And so it has been lately for this columnist.
For every one nod of approval I get from a happy reader, I get at least five emails or phone calls or hand-written letters telling me why I am the scum of the Earth and should be outed from my job.
And, to be fair, I understand that I often take stances on controversial issues which differ widely from the collective opinion of the communities I write for.
But I believe my opinion pieces to be of benefit to our community, not because I’ve imparted some kind of brilliance on our readers or that my opinion is any more valuable than the next person’s but, because it brings a strange objectivity to the Editorial Page.
If you thumb through our newspapers, you’ll find columns on a whole variety of topics – some conservative, some liberal and some who don’t even write about politics – which give equal airtime to the chorus of voices that make up the American psyche.
While we may disagree on the topics, I think we can all agree that giving each side its turn to speak makes for a better newspaper, a more informed populace and a more tolerant and educated America.
I love to share my opinion but, more than that, I love being able to serve this community and everyone who abides within it…even when we disagree.