Just some thoughts about opinions this week
I must admit that some weeks it’s very hard to try to come up with a topic to write about here. There are always a few half-formed ideas floating around in my head, but they often won’t fill up the whole column space. Or I think the topic will only be interesting to me and not the people out there perusing through the newspaper.
This week is another one of those weeks where inspiration is nowhere to be found. Trust me, I have looked in all the usual places and a few unusual ones as well. Every once and a while, the well just runs dry.
What’s the purpose of an opinion column anyway?
Personally, I usually have several different goals in mind, depending on what topic I choose to write about. I can usually break those goals down to these four types: interesting, informative, persuasive, or entertaining.
An “interesting” column is usually just when I stumble across something that catches my eye and I want to share it with more people. I browse through different news websites for things that I’d like to learn more about. My favorites are WRAL for local/state news and NPR for national/international news. Sometimes I check in on ednc.org to see what’s going on in schools across North Carolina. Then, of course, there are plenty of news articles that pop up on my Twitter feed as well, like athlete profiles from ESPN or entertainment news from different sources.
If I find a pretty strange headline, I’ll build a column around that. I get to convey that news story to my audience and share my own thoughts about it at the same time. Hopefully anyone reading it gains a bit of new knowledge along the way too.
Occasionally, I’ll do an informative column to try to spread important information to a wider audience. In the past, I’ve written about things like getting prepared for a hurricane, how to avoid heat stroke, and resources for suicide prevention. Of course, anyone could find this kind of information on their own, but I hope that sharing it myself makes it easier to access. Or maybe it’ll make a person think, hey I’ll go look up more about this!
I think it’s always good to have as much information as possible, and I like learning too while I write those columns.
Then there are persuasive columns. They’re not my favorite to write because I feel a bit too much like I’m standing on a soap box for some topics. But sometimes it feels necessary to write them. I share my perspective on a subject (like gun control, mental health, or systemic racism) and hope that the people reading consider the matter in a different light. There are so many parts of our country that are broken, but maybe if we listen and consider different viewpoints, we can come to a better understanding and find better solutions.
These are always the hardest columns to write. And I’m not always very good at expressing my thoughts on serious topics. But I write them anyway. It never hurts to try to change things, even if it’s only a little bit.
And then, lastly, there are the entertaining columns… and I use the word “entertaining” loosely because my ability to tell jokes isn’t all that great. But every now and then, I just want to write something fun, something to make people laugh. Back when I read the newspaper as a teenager, the funny columns were the only ones that I read on the opinion page. I skipped over everything else in favor of a good chuckle.
My “entertaining” columns probably aren’t as laugh-out-loud funny. In fact, they’re mostly ridiculous and weird. One time I ranked my top five favorite fast-food restaurants as if they were the starting five players in a basketball game. (Please do not go looking for it. It was silly.) Those kinds of columns are good ways for me to figure out how to stretch my creativity skills, if nothing else.
So, back to the original question: what’s the purpose of an opinion column? I don’t think there’s one simple answer. I’m never going to be putting my personal opinions in my front-page news articles, so the column is a way for me to express my own views each week. Some weeks, I want to comment on current events. Others, I just want to share some information with as many people as I can. And then, sometimes I just want to people to get a good chuckle while they read something. Maybe it’ll brighten someone’s day.
I have no idea how many people even read my column each week, but I want to say thanks to the ones who do! Even if you just check in occasionally and cross your fingers that I’m not rambling about anime or something.
I promise that next week’s column will be much more interesting, informative, persuasive, or entertaining than this one has been!
Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-332-7206.