Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The problem with Op/Ed

Leave room for topics that don’t have a place elsewhere
Samchills/All Creative Commons/Flickr

As I sat in my 400-person lecture, I scavenged across the deepest craters of my imagination for just about anything to distract me. It was 11:20 a.m., which meant I still had 45 minutes to endure. I laid out my options: pay attention and do well, read something interesting or get up and leave. The first and the third option required too much effort for a lazy college student like me, so interesting reading would have to suffice.

I began on and soon realized why I don’t read BuzzFeed articles. Then I took a jab at Twitter, but nothing “big” happened that morning so good tweets ran few and far between. Eventually, I diverted my attention to what’s praised as the holy mecca of modern journalism: The New York Times. What I saw when I scrolled across the opinion section reminds me of my first semester at college: overwhelming and too much politics.

Let’s face it: American society thrives off partisan divide and breaking news stories, so expecting any less from one of the leading publications is just unrealistic. Granted this realization, what I did not expect to see was 17 articles relating to American politics. Of the most recent opinion pieces, 17 of 20 had been written with a “fresh new take” on the dead-beaten horse that is our political climate. Did I accidentally click on the politics or the world tab? Are my eyes lying to me?

No. I clicked on opinion and my eyes told nothing but the truth. Before President Trump came into office, opinion pieces ventured much less into the realm of politics and more into engaging topics and studies, like this opinion piece about one man’s struggle to overcome his addiction with money, drugs and alcohol; or this one, about a physician’s experience diagnosing others with cancer until he realized it was him who needed diagnosing.

The opinion section should serve as a platform for expressing individuality through storytelling and captivating experiences. Now, it’s just another breeding ground for political disputes. As if the politics section wasn’t enough room to argue, disputes that continue to polarize liberals and conservatives have spilled over into the world of opinions, where no one is wrong and no one is right; nobody wins.

The contention is good, to a degree, as well as inevitable. As long as there is free press there is disagreement, and it is our duty as journalists to write articles that promote learning something new instead of force-fed opinions to those who already agree. Furthermore, we as both journalists and media consumers must go to greater lengths just to read something new and creative.

Publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal break their opinion sections up into different categories like business and cultural commentary in an attempt to divert readers from the other widely trafficked pages. This is an issue because the people who need to read something new and creative the most are the people least likely to seek out the fine print that separates the general opinion section from the business opinion section. It shouldn’t be a hassle to make journalism appealing.

Some may argue that the life and arts and sports sections are all the same too. Why is this guy ripping apart the opinion section for doing what every other section does? To this, I say it’s not the same at all. The life and arts and sports sections exist in a vacuum; the content published in these sections stays in these sections. There’s not nearly as much overlap regarding politics in fashion articles as there is in general-opinion articles.

The opinion sections of these major publications need to be making room for more nuanced topics that don’t have a place to succeed elsewhere. Arts and life, although producing more broad content than the politics and opinion sections, still has a structure to follow. Each published article relates to arts and life, nothing that’s too bold and content that’s easy to digest. Opinion pieces have the potential to be bold, make a statement no matter how outward, support it with evidence and a strong claim and let the feedback roll in. Let’s make the opinion section interesting again.

Class ended a bit early that day, at 12 p.m. instead of 12:05 p.m., and I couldn’t wait to write this all down. I thought about how uniform the news has become and noted a couple of articles I wanted to read later. There was one covering everything you missed at the 92nd Oscars and an article about a former football player turned corn hole professional. All this distracted reading and I found myself leaving the lecture hall with a notebook devoid of notes and a mind pervasive with journalistic wonder. I thought to myself, “Yeah, I’d like to read something new again.”

Maxwell Schwartz is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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