A review on the role of editorials in a journalistic democracy


Photo taken from The New York Times opinion page.

Victoria Ernst

Man bites dog? Didn’t you mean dog bites man? Actually, there was no attack at all, but man bites dog got your attention. Just like the provocative anecdote about the “imbecile” (who actually is my friend and granted me permission to describe him in such a way) with the ice cream cone got your attention in my previous article from Nov. 23. Is everything this crazy chick writing a lie?

No, it’s not. It’s an opinion. Allow me to assist you in understanding my writing process. See, when I’m framing an opinion story – which technically doesn’t need any sources and is merely a review of an event, phenomenon, movie, etc. – I like to think of my writing as an argument; I have the liberty to choose whichever facts and details I like to support that argument. 

Now, say you were having a debate about the health effects of vaping, and you were to write a short summary to support vaping as part of a healthy lifestyle. You, an avid JUUL user who goes through two pods a day, would not mention that you cannot make it up the D-Hall staircase without stopping to catch your breath. Nonsense! You would say that vaping promotes relaxation and can help one lose weight. 

But you’re not telling the whole truth! I’m telling my truth. I choose specific words and phrases with specific connotations to match what I want to convey. And, frankly, I have the power to do that. I’d go so far as to say that I’m welcomed to do that in this country. There’s no law saying I cannot have an opinion. This isn’t communist China or the USSR.  In the United States, the epitome of democracy – for which every other nation worldwide strives – opinions are wanted. 

But no one wants your opinion! That may very well hold true. I never forced you to read my articles (thanks for reading and supporting the school newspaper, though). And guess what – my aforementioned “controversial” article got the second highest number of views of all articles in the online edition of the Ring-tum Phi. 

In case you were unaware, journalism is a business. Unfortunately for me, a college newspaper isn’t exactly a lucrative business; it’s definitely a mere hobby. But in the real world, big media companies will use provocative headlines and frame their stories – especially opinion pieces – in certain ways to attract the largest audiences, whether that’s a niche group or the general public. The bigger the audience, the bigger the profit. 

In fact, Joseph Pulitzer practiced this sensational style of yellow journalism, exaggerating the details of world events, and now he has an award bestowed upon successful journalists in his name. So, maybe, just maybe, my provocative headlines, my satirical and sarcastic tone, and my blunt humor could be doing something right (or wrong, in the most right way). 

Now, I would like to clarify that I do not condone spreading false information in strictly news stories. Spreading falsehoods in the news, particularly political stories, is detrimental to our democracy. That’s why I choose to write in this style for the opinions section. 

See what I did there? I made my argument. I selected the evidence and logic to best support my claim, refuted your possible counterarguments, and clarified my assertion. I encourage you to do the same if you feel so strongly about something. If not, so be it; I’ll see you in the anonymous comments section of my article.