When Writing an Op-ed

By Guest Contributor

This op-ed goes out to everyone who is thinking about writing an opinion piece in a published medium that circles in a community (ie. newspapers, magazine, other public media).

Think before you write. Sharing your opinions and thoughts on a certain topic is necessary to varying degrees. It helps the process of resolution, personal piece of mind and opens new paths to conversations.  However, it seems that many people take the privilege of being able to speak up and be heard as an opportunity to babble about personal plights without considering alternative views to a problem. Many opinion pieces in this newspaper fall into this category, and my only hope is that it will stop.

It is very important, as previously stated, to express your thoughts and opinions. Nevertheless, finding the appropriate means of communication is also very important. When writing to the Campus, ask yourself: “why do I want this particular piece of information to be published in this particular medium given its particular audience?” If your answer is: “I’m trying to be a published writer!” then just write a book or start a blog. If your answer is: “Can’t wait to see how many people talk about my controversial article on Thursday!” then just write a Facebook status about it. If the answer to your “why” is: “This is an important issue to the student body, and I believe I can contribute to its discussion in a constructive way.” Then please, SUBMIT SUBMIT SUBMIT!

Some of the characteristics of the latter can be described by the following: You allow your audience to think about the issue for themselves instead of trying to convince them of a particular point. This can be accomplished by: 1) stating factual information that allows for readers to decide whether or not they agree, 2) stating how your background may or may not give you a degree of entitlement or an unsubstantiated view of the problem, and 3) recognizing alternative views and clearly stating how your particular opinion is contrary to the ideas of that viewpoint.

Once you have checked these three boxes, you may realize that your opinion is very biased and that you are only writing the piece for personal reasons and not for the purpose of informing others. Or maybe you will edit your piece so much that you realize it’s all a manner of relativity — later deleting your email draft to the Campus. Or perhaps you will have crafted a well-written, unbiased article that will prove worthy of informing others in your community about a particular issue.

The Campus is a newspaper that most students and community members read. It is important for you to consider the impact your opinion piece will have on this community when you write to this media source. Don’t abuse your privilege of being able to inform others. Don’t trick yourself into believing your opinion piece reflects everyone else’s opinions. And lastly, if you haven’t checked all of the boxes above, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are brave and powerful for sharing your opinion on a particular issue in this newspaper. Instead, write a status about it on Facebook or start a blog. I won’t read either. I’ve been at Middlebury for three years and read the Campus every week. I get upset every week when someone feels the need to write an opinion piece and decide to inform me about what I’m doing wrong with my life. That’s my bias.

MORRIS SWABY EBANKS ’13 is from West Bay, Cayman Islands

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