Importance of newspaper opinion pages

My reaction to our “news conference” with Tim Nickens—editorials editor at Tampa Bay Times at the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University.

The field of journalism is often times like a war zone, with journalists battling with each other to compete for stories. It also includes journalists battling themselves internally on the righteous interest to educate the public vs. the self-serving interest for their own successes.

Some successes include the Pulitzer Prize, a prestigious honor, awarded since 1917 to celebrate achievements in journalism, photography, and other various categories. This prize is of course very competitive—journalism is very competitive.

So despite all the tremendous amount of competition-spurring talent, what happens when even the best of the best of the best isn’t good enough to win the Pulitzer?

This was the case in 2012, when Indiana University graduate and editorials editor of the Tampa Bay Times Tim Nickens along with Joni James, John Hill and Robyn Blumner were not chosen for the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing, along with the two other finalists—the board didn’t award the Prize to anyone.

This was the ninth time the Pulitzer Board didn’t pick a winner for editorial writing, Nickens said.

Often times, journalism is looked upon as having only two sides: the interviewer and interviewee; the reporter and audience; the Republican vs. Democrat in the presidential election. While trying to remain objective, news stories only ever seem to present two sides, both recieving equal weight. Everything seems just black and white.

However, there is always more to a story than just sides and facts, and editorials help show that by going in-depth and painting the bigger picture. Even though more and more newspapers have stopped printing editorials and publicly supporting political candidates, editorials are just as much of journalism as any other section of a newspaper.

They have to be timely, relevant, and well-researched. But their most important role is to create an impact in the community and prompt people to demand change. While typical news stories try to remain objective, editorials are able to bring in an analysis of a situation and put it into context for readers. So yes, this, this, and this happened, but so what? How does this effect us?

The reason we can trust editorials and opinion pieces, according to Nickens, is that they come from established, credible sources. Editorials printed in newspapers are voices of reporters who go out to get accurate information and reliable sources. They’re not just blogs by some “guy in a basement wearing a bathrobe.”

News stories are of course extremely important, but editorials shouldn’t be tossed away altogether. It can be difficult to trust opinions and distinguish the most important voices from the billions out there. But the content of opinion pieces should not entirely speak about their general value—the quality should as well. Even if there’s an opinion that a reader doesn’t like or agree with, the journalist’s writing and research have a chance of persuading a community towards something which betters society; thus in the process educating the public…isn’t that what journalism is about?

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