This week, Comment Editors discuss the importance of comment-based journalism, thinking abut its impact in a student setting and beyond
‘Don’t bitch on Brumfess’ is one of the slogans of The Guild Of Students referendum on ‘proposed decision making structures.’ This slogan is a response to students complaining about the Guild on popular confession page Brumfess as well as recent controversy over the officer team misleading students over their strike stance, as well as preventing political societies from campaigning over the election period. The referendum proposals include four new student led committees covering key areas of university life, an all student vote and meeting to discuss the ‘big issues’, a panel to scrutinise the progress of officers as well as transparency and efficiency within regards to decision making. These somewhat ambiguous proposals seek to properly make the Guild the voice of students with a more consistent and connected democratic process. The results of the referendum were announced alongside the Guild’s officer election outcome on the 29th of February.
This is one of a few moves by the Guild to hear from students. A ‘Your Ideas’ vote held last month led the Guild to declare its full support for the UCU strikes, contrasting their neutral position taken in the autumn term of 2019. This is the university context in which comment-based student journalism is not only vital but thriving. As the Guild is asking for student’s opinions more than ever, last week they offered free pizza to those who voted in the annual officer elections. In response to this call for student engagement, students are voicing these opinions, not only by posting comments on Brumfess (which the Guild seeks to convert into ‘yes’ votes for their referendum), but also through their writing. Comment-based journalism whether on a local or national level allows us to hear both sides, make an informed judgement and perhaps most importantly of all act on that judgement, through voting, activism and writing. In the age of fake news, thousands of podcasts, and twitter echo-chambers, quality opinion led writing allows us to cut through the noise.
The current political climate is brimming over with debates. Every day, a political figure somewhere will do something worth debating over which makes politics incredibly exciting. In light of this, opinion journalism has never been so important. Objective news reporting is vital as it ensures everyone has access to the facts that allow them to be informed about current affairs. However, in the fast-moving society we live in that is dominated by a 24 hours news cycle, opinion sections are invaluable. As with objective news, opinions also allow people to be informed about current affairs as they shape our interpretations of what is going on. Given the volume of news stories, it would be very unlikely that everyone has an automatic opinion on every issue so this type of journalism can help their readers develop opinions. Also, opinion journalism creates debate, which is very healthy in such a diverse, constantly evolving political climate. Even those from the same end of the political spectrum will differ on their views on some topics which is why opinion journalism is so interesting.
It is also important to remember that politics is more than just Presidents and Prime Ministers; this is where opinion sections come into their own. The chance to be subjective allows journalists to reflect on personal experiences. This reflection can give stories a voice that in a world of purely objective journalism would not be told. Stories can range from deeply personal accounts to humorous and relatable tales. Whatever the tone, they are generally more emotive which allows readers to connect on an entirely different level. Whilst it is possible to feel emotion after reading an objective news piece, it is highly unlikely any reaction can be as emotionally charged than opinion, which I think is another compelling reason that opinion journalism is so important to the media world.
For me, becoming part of the comment section was something that I aspired to do as soon as I got involved with Redbrick. The value of opinion journalism, in my eyes, cannot be overstated, because when it comes to sharing the news, sometimes we require more than just the basic facts. Writing is all about expressing yourself and shedding light on your unique perspective on something and without opinion articles and the expression that they grant us, we are denied this personal voice that is so fundamental to creating engaging, thought-provoking journalism.
In a world that is clouded with clashing, unjustified and often misleading statements on social media, opinion journalism can offer a clear, thoughtful perspective on an issue that resonates with many. In our section, we want to shine the spotlight on those who may not otherwise be given the chance to be heard, covering issues that might not be hitting the headlines, but still raise important and much-needed discussions. Such articles, from good comment journalists, encourage readers to do more than just absorb the information they are given, but to engage with the news, reflect on current issues, and form their own opinion of these events.
Opinion journalism is the place for meaningful discussion, a way of questioning what we think we know, and what keeps the news so exciting. Without comment articles, we would be left to simply take things at face value, rendering journalism a voiceless entity, and I ask you, where’s the fun in that?
Opinion is a key aspect of popular journalism in the modern era. The introduction of intellectual and critical thought into mainstream media was an important development in print journalism, allowing everyday news consumers access to wider political and social debate. This transition from ‘news’ to ‘journalism’, moved away from the ‘as and when’ relevance of news, to the consistent and regular publication of journalism, in magazines, journals and even tabloids. As a result, we come to rely on the familiarity and consistency of reading other people’s opinions in print and online publications, turning to them when we are unsure of our own view on current events. The constant stream of information and news we witness in modern life can be overwhelming, and we have become accustomed to instant access to information in order to understand these events. Opinion journalism always underpins this, as the number of blogs and online publications increase, more and more writers are taking part in an ever-growing network of thought and debate. Opinion encapsulates our freedom to criticise, question and sometimes even praise the world around us; it allows writers to show their passion, and as such to inspire passion in those who read their work, to continually motivate people to think critically about things that they would otherwise just accept.
Our comment section fits into a wider context of discussion and debate throughout the realm of print journalism. The contributions our writers give play an integral role in the continual analysis and understanding of modern life. Although it may not appear as such on the humble page in front of you, and as trivial as it may seem at the time, opinion journalism gets readers (and writers) thinking about what is important to us as students and as human beings. I really don’t know where we would be without it.