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Newspapers 101

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Online newspapers may be becoming more popular, but it is still important to know the format of a print paper and how you can get your opinion published in one.

What are the different parts of a newspaper?

Newspapers are divided into sections based on subject of the stories. The PHOENIX has five sections: News, Arts and Entertainment, Sports, Closer Look and Opinion.

Can newspapers print opinionated pieces?

Newspapers publish opinion pieces, or op-eds, in the Opinion section. In this section, readers will find the staff editorial and other opinion pieces written by contributing columnists. While the staff editorial is the opinion of the editorial board, columns contain only the opinion of the writer. Just because a column is being printed, that does not necessarily mean it is the opinion of the paper.

Do you have to be a journalist to be printed in the opinion section?

No. The Opinion section of a paper is essentially a public forum, with its purpose being to encourage debate and discussion among the readers. Sometimes readers will see a story they agree with and other times they will see a story they disagree with. Either way, readers are encouraged to submit their own opinions and responses. As long as the pieces are thoughtful and well-written, they will be published.

What types of things can’t be printed in the Opinion section?

While the Opinion section encourages free speech, there are some things that cannot be said. Hate speech, or speech that discriminates against someone based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other attributes cannot be published. Not only is hate speech banned from the Opinion section, it is not protected by the First Amendment.

What is libel?

Libel is a published false statement that damages someone’s reputation. There are seven different qualifications that a statement must meet to be considered libelous, but the most important is that it can be proven false. While opinion pieces may damage a person’s or organization’s reputation, that alone does not qualify it as libelous. A legitimate opinion cannot be proven true or false, and therefore cannot be libelous.

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Grace Runkel is the former editor-in-chief of The PHOENIX. She’s from Floyds Knobs, Indiana, a small town just north of Louisville, Kentucky. There she’s interned with multiple news outlets, as well as at WGN in Chicago. One of her favorite journalism memories is getting to interview Lee Crooks — the voice of the CTA.

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