Opinions columnists, bloggers get readers involved in conversation on current events

I want to mix it up a little bit this week. Usually, I try to write about a topic or theme each week I believe is important for college students to know but also something about which I feel passionate. Rarely do I reference myself when I give my opinions: I generally opt for third-person or first-person generalities such as “we.” I want to talk about me and my thoughts.

The question is: Why should you care?

To begin, I want to describe what I believe to be my role as an opinions columnist. Each week there are thousands of distinct news stories and events that are reported by newspapers in just this country alone. Most of them try to present the facts as unbiased and as close to the truth as possible, so that readers can interpret stories for themselves. Journalism’s purpose is to provide readers with enough information to make appropriate decisions about these issues. That leaves the subjectivity to columnists, editorial boards and bloggers.

We are given the special opportunity in the news world to write as biased as we choose by purposely selecting or disregarding facts that don’t coincide with our personal agendas. Most print newspapers dedicate only a couple of pages to such opinions like mine, saving the rest of the pages for what the editors consider to be the objective truth.

So why does my opinion matter when the premise of objective journalism is that readers are capable of discerning their own interpretations?

As a columnist, I get to start the conversation and the interpretation of what I consider to be a newsworthy or important topic. A newspaper is supposed to cause people to talk and to think about their governing bodies and organizations. By issuing my opinion on something, readers have a place to begin their discussions agreeing or disagreeing with what I wrote.

Chances are, I’ll write something that someone sees as incorrect, erroneous, not well-thought out, misguided or scores of other negative adjectives. And that’s alright. When someone forms that opinion about what I have written, they have digested it and thought about it. That’s how a conversation starts. Maybe, you’ll even agree with me, and I can only hope that you’ll share what you’ve read with someone else.

Furthering that point, people are more likely to respond to an opinion than they are to a news story. If you are like me, then you tear through an article in less than a couple of minutes, take in what you can and then forget it a day later. An opinion, though, takes time to read through, so you remember it better and you can react to it.

When I watch a political debate, I know the facts are important, but I generally care more about a candidate’s stance on those facts. When a candidate takes a stance, I will probably look up more information about what was presented.

If we are just presented with stone cold facts, the incentive to become more informed decreases. When presented with opinions, we synthesize and use the information.

That is why my opinion matters. It pushes people to question, interpret and use what they read. But with that said, my opinion is of the same value as another’s, so long as that person pushes for others to talk or think about what they read.

I don’t write this as a way to discredit myself, although it may seem that way — I write this because it’s my opinion.

_Ryan is a sophomore in LAS._