As journalists, what do we learn from opinion writing?

Photo courtesy of Bannon Morrissy on Unsplash.com

When it comes to journalism as a whole, it is a reporter’s duty to stay unbiased and fair. However, journalism will always have some sort of bias whether it comes in the form of a large editorial or the simple expression that is needed for student journalist.

As journalists, we seek to be unbiased and report only facts. However, in opinion writing, a publication is selecting the opinion of the journalist based on the facts that have been collected.

News reporting is gathering news, leaving the personal and moral judgement of the author aside. With opinion journalism they build off that, adding judgement, framing, context and illumination, according to Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Often, when journalism is viewed from an outside perspective it can seem troublesome but the level of trust from reader to publication is often based on personal political beliefs.

When surveyed, publications like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today have been more distrusted than trusted by people who are mostly conservative and are more trusted than distrusted by people who are mostly liberal, according to the University of Michigan Library. Student journalists have learned from the start to only report facts and leave bias to the side as we report on the news, but we are also taught to have our own personal morals and opinions when it comes to what we write.

However, that is what the opinion writing section is for. We are no longer reporting for the news section but rather reporting for the opinion section, so that our own personal beliefs based on the facts presented are used.

In a podcast posted by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, award-winning Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah explained the importance of opinion writing within journalism.

“Opinion journalism is part of the journalism information product that an institution like the Post, or the Times is offering,” Attiah said. “I think that opinion journalism, again going back to the fact that I think great opinion journalism is often based on reporting, is based on still talking to people, still based on getting as close to the story as possible.”

As student journalists we look to accomplished publications and reporters for guidance in what we would like to do after college. For journalism, opinion writing is one of the things many of us aspire to do.

“And we’re not claiming expertise, at the end of the day, we are writers, but we do, over time, build up a certain well of knowledge in our particular areas of interest that we do draw upon,” Attiah said. “So this idea that opinion journalism – good opinion journalism, I’ll say, good opinion journalism also has an element of reporting.”

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