Staff Editorial

Why Newspapers Need Opinion Sections

Courtesy of Raphael FerrazIn the age of “fake news,” it’s important — now more than ever — that diverse, credible opinions are shared and discussed.

The term “fake news” has plagued the American vocabulary since the recent election of President Donald Trump. The sometimes vague term can refer to news media which give into political biases and omit crucial elements of a story with intention of slanting the truth.

Some people cite well-known publications, such as The New York Times, as reporting “fake news,” but the accusations trickle all the way down to student media, such as The PHOENIX. This is exactly why writing opinion pieces and staff editorials is more important now than it ever has been.

The PHOENIX has received comments and complaints in the past that it doesn’t publish everyone’s opinions, favoring left-leaning pieces over right-leaning ones. However, that’s simply not true.

We encourage all students, or really anyone in the Loyola community, to submit their opinions to our newspaper, but we generally receive more liberal opinions with only the occasional conservative viewpoint making it to our inbox. Our opinion section reflects this accordingly.

The PHOENIX wants to reiterate the importance of having the full spectrum of Loyola voices in its publication, including dissenting voices. It’s important for its readers to know how others experience different issues via reading differing opinions.

Opinions not only give readers the chance to respond to one another’s views, but they also provide a platform to criticize The PHOENIX’s content if they don’t like something that’s been published — from our opinions to our news coverage. Instead of writing lengthy Facebook posts or exhaustive Twitter threads, we encourage the community to write their well-informed opinions and submit them to The PHOENIX, where it has the potential to be published in a vetted and reputable publication, fostering productive dialogue.

The PHOENIX treats every opinion piece the same. When an opinion is submitted, it’s first edited and fact-checked by the current opinion editor, Gabriela Valencia, checked for grammar and AP style by copy editors and then edited and fact-checked once more by the managing editor and editor-in-chief.

This editing policy is in place to ensure the piece is factual and claims and accusations are vetted. Not everyone has to agree on the opinion in question, but the opinion can’t make claims that are factually wrong or defamatory. An opinion piece ought to have the same level of accuracy as a news article.

The same kind of editing policy is used for staff editorials, which is somewhat different from an opinion piece. Staff editorials voice the collective opinion of The PHOENIX’s editorial board — made up of the editor-in-chief, Julie Whitehair; managing editor, Michen Dewey; and section editors Michael McDevitt, Henry Redman, Luke Hyland and Valencia — whereas an opinion piece is generally written by an individual from the Loyola community — affiliated with The PHOENIX or not — and voices their own, singular opinion.

In other words, staff editorials express the collective opinion of The PHOENIX editorial board; opinion pieces, or op-eds, don’t necessarily.

When deciding on what to write about each week, the editorial board, which changes annually as the staff changes, has a meeting to discuss potential pieces. Once a topic is chosen, each board member shares their thoughts on the opinion or issue at hand, and each one is woven into the editorial board’s argument. We don’t all agree on the same thing each week, and this disagreement is followed up with productive conversation, fact-checking and investigating. If we can’t come up with a cohesive opinion, then we generally move on to the next idea. We want to stand as a united front with each editorial we write. However, that democratic tactic might not be the case in other publications.

Once the editorial board has decided on the topic and unanimous opinion for that week, one person writes the editorial piece, but the piece is carefully edited and fact-checked by each board member. This is why it’s “unsigned” and not attributed to any single writer.

We subject our staff editorials to the same editing process as the opinion pieces submitted by the surrounding community. All opinions are supported by factual information. No “fake news” allowed.

Appearing both in print and online, the opinion pieces and staff editorials are clearly labeled accordingly. Although we can’t say that’s the same for every publication across the world, we encourage you to thoroughly look for those opinion or editorial labels before accusing a publication of leaning a certain way.

When looking for those labels, also take into consideration that you’re not going to agree with every opinion that’s published. But that doesn’t means the opinion or editorial is wrong. Dissenting opinions are okay. The intent of an opinion or editorial is to start a respectful conversation, generate new ideas or persuade you to take action.

It’s also important to understand The PHOENIX’s editorials don’t affect how much coverage something or someone gets in the rest of the paper.

At the end of the day, we’re here in journalism because we want to do our jobs — holding those in the Loyola community accountable for their actions, telling the truth about what’s happening in and around the university and shedding light on the stories happening around us every day. Writing op-eds or editorials is just another way to put those intentions to action, and we encourage you to join us.

If you are a member of the Loyola community and care to voice your opinion, send your concerns to phoenixopinion@luc.edu.

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