Distinguishing between news and opinion

A how-to guide for correctly understanding the basics of newspaper writing

It has been brought to my attention through an opinion piece, that some of my peers, including former employee of The Medium, Russell Wu, have expressed confusion regarding the structure of the news section versus the opinion page of our paper. As the current news editor, it’s my privilege and delight to break down this process. News reporting is different than the other sections of the paper, especially opinion, and requires a different form of writing style, which we will now explore together:

1) In the actual news section, your opinion does not matter. News writing is focused on presenting facts, despite what Wu may have stated in his op-ed. So, if one is looking for what a writer thinks about the subject, they’d be looking in the wrong place if they searched in the news section, and aren’t really interested in becoming an informed reader. Two weeks ago, Wu alleged that my section contains lies. As this is very concerning to me, I’d encourage readers to highlight instances where I have told outright lies and come to The Medium office where we can discuss this together in productive conversation. In terms of being dull and boring, the news section is meant to provide information as unbiased as possible, so any colourful language that people want to see in these articles is not appropriate or professional.

In regards to the opinion section of our paper, this section is meant to reflect a writer’s thoughts on any given topic. So, complaints that the opinion section has topics that UTM doesn’t care about isn’t actually relevant. Op-eds are meant to reflect what the writer feels about a given topic, hence why Russell’s piece was published in our paper despite its criticism of The Medium. Due to the fact that an op-ed is an opinion, calling it “poor journalism” when you don’t like the piece is illogical because it’s not journalism, it’s just an opinion.

2) In terms of obtaining information, depending on our contacts, some individuals refuse to partake in interviews with reporters and will only answer questions on their terms. Short of constantly harassing people to respond to my questions and badgering them in person to do what I want, if people don’t want to be interviewed, we have to respect their choice. I cannot make anyone give me information they do not want to or force a person to speak to me or answer my onslaught of weekly emails.

3) In terms of news coverage, our paper functions on a volunteer basis. This means that anyone who wants to contribute is more than welcome, an invitation has been extended on more than one occasion. My biggest opposition to Wu’s piece is that he claims we did not report that Sandra Hudson was being hosted by UTMSU. We explicitly informed him, before the release of his op-ed that the topic was being covered. Russell is correct that investigative pieces are more interesting. However, these pieces don’t happen in 24 hours and it takes time to check information, find sources that don’t want to be “anonymous,” and actually get a response from our contacts.

Displeasure was also expressed that the topics we have covered this year, such as the CUPE negotiations, fee increases, and Davis construction, are not actually relevant to the campus or UTM students. I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate that The Medium has always supported students pitching their own ideas for topics. If any student has a topic they would like to see covered, all they have to do is send us an email. The Medium is always looking for honest feedback and suggestions, especially at our workshop events, meet and greets, and our Annual General Meeting—none of which Wu has attended this past year.

In terms of actually getting topics and events covered—I cannot force people to write and take topics for me. But it is nice to see someone so passionate about news coverage and I look forward to seeing Wu’s contributions to the news section in the near future. I’ve always believed that if someone wants change then it is up to them to be that change and take action.

I was really torn over writing this because I already know that any attention I give to Wu’s op-ed will give validation to the author. But at the same time, I don’t like to let confusion and misrepresentation spread. I’ve made this response as clear and blunt as I’m permitted to. I’m more than happy to partake in honest and constructive communication based on reality and facts. Insisting that The Medium is worthless based off of one opinion and choosing to not actively engage with our paper is anyone’s prerogative. However, aninformed opinion is one that looks at all sides, and it has been clear that there is misinformation being spread.

 

ALICIA BOATTO
NEWS EDITOR