Editor’s Desk: On Opinion and On News

Alexina Lockie- Co-Editor-In-Chief

This is my first year as an editor in-chief (I’d say as editor in-chief but there are three of us, so an is an appropriate word). Last year there were two, the year before one. I suppose it gets more overwhelming every year to be in charge of the ever growing class of Hawk Tawk reporters.

One of the first things that you learn in Hawk Tawk is how to write news. Do you know how to write news? Because let me tell you, it is not as fun as it sounds. You have to be sure not to mischaracterize the things someone tells you when writing, but it can be hard to find the balance between making something interesting and making something factually true.

With news, the scale tips so far to the factually true that writing or reading a solid news story is like swallowing down a horse pill of information with a few drops of water. You give all of the necessary information in the first sentence, a style called inverted pyramid style, but what I believe should be called “why most people read the headline and first sentence and nothing more style.”

But news has its place. We need it to know facts straight up and it’s a helpful practice tool for understanding your own bias; because, as much as we don’t like to admit it, we are creatures riddled with bias.

We then learn about the next two styles that you use in reporting: feature style and opinion. A feature isn’t news—it’s not giving straight up facts and it is written in more of a narrative style—but it isn’t an opinion. A feature is often  a story about opinion—but other people’s opinion. Not the reporter’s.

Finally there are opinion pieces. I’ve never been good at writing them: I tend to circumvent having to mention my full opinion because I’m afraid. I just am.

Other people aren’t. Adele Gammill, for one, isn’t scared, wasn’t scared when she wrote about her opinions on Nike using Colin Kaepernick as the face of their advertising campaign (you can find her piece in the October 2018 edition of Hawk Tawk).

We, and by we I mean Hawk Tawk, the editors and, specifically, Adele, received many responses to her piece. Someone sent us a newspaper which they’d corrected, pointing out grammar or spelling errors. Though some of them were legitimate errors, many were simply AP style (the style that is used by the Associated Press to standardize the way that newspapers are written) and Adele’s piece was written on as though it were an error.

The renegade editor had written about their own opinions on the issue, wrote about how they believed Adele had mischaracterized the other side, and finally about how Adele was wrong.

So here’s what I’m trying to say: an opinion piece isn’t news. An opinion piece doesn’t have to lack opinion. An opinion piece doesn’t need to show both sides, because, you know, it isn’t feature and it isn’t news: it’s an explanation of someone’s personal opinion. By giving full weight and consideration to the other side of an issue, an opinion piece can easily become muddled.

An opinion piece has its place, and, to the many who believe that Adele’s opinion had no place in the school newspaper, great, but opinion pieces are part of the cornerstone of a school newspaper. It’s a public platform for students to be able to share their opinions and for those on the outside to learn about the opinions of students in the high school.

I asked Adele what it was that she wanted me to explain in this piece and she told me she wanted people to know that the fact that she wrote a strong opinion doesn’t mean that she doesn’t understand the thoughts of the other side. It was merely her opinion, and, as valid or invalid you think her opinion is, it should be taken as such.

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