Spring SAVY 2017, Day 4- Intro to Journalism
SAVY Journalism students changed gears this week, from the objective stance of newswriting to the more subjective world of opinion writing. But, even in editorials (opinion pieces written by the newspaper editorial staff) and op-eds (opinion pieces written by outside writers), journalists need to use measured, detailed analysis and support their arguments with facts. You can even think of an opinion piece as a news article that takes the extra step of taking a stance on the presented issue.
Much of our opening class discussion centered around the changing venues for opinion writing in recent years. In the past, editors carefully moderated opinion pages and made ethics-based decisions about what to publish, including whether to hold back pieces that made personal attacks or sought merely to evoke an emotional response in the reader. But with the rise of cable news, expanded radio programs, and especially the internet, such moderation is becoming rare. While technology gives a platform to more voices, students noted they were very concerned about the amount of anger and lack of fact-based argument they’d noticed on the airwaves and webpages around them. They agreed that more and more, it’s falling to individuals to voice their opinions clearly and respectfully.
Students then reviewed the creative thinking model they’d used to dig deeper into news stories, and discussed how the same model could be applied to opinion pieces. They also learned about several modes of argument and argumentative strategies, then read a sample op-ed column and examined how the writer structured her argument. Then, students were asked to consider a controversial topic: suppose the school board that governs your school proposed a rule banning all personal electronics from classrooms. Is this a good idea or a bad idea? Students organized themselves into three groups: those who would be in favor of the rule, those would be against the rule, and those who would be somewhere in the middle. Then, they practiced the argumentative strategies they’d just learned to develop a multi-point argument for or against the rule. After their discussion, students each wrote an op-ed column that could be submitted to the local paper. This topic generated strong feelings among the class – several students even reported hand cramps as they wrote furiously to make their case!
We ended the class by discussing a different type of opinion writing: reviews. Reviews can be about works of art (movies, books, plays) or products, and good reviews examine multiple elements of the item being reviewed. After thinking about different elements of films, television series, books, plays, and works of art, and about different characteristics of a product future buyers might like to know, students each wrote a review of a book, movie, show or product they’d interacted with recently.
Next week, we’ll be diving deeper into the ethical issues journalists face every day.