Jaimes: Understanding the opinions section

A distinction between columnist and reporter must be made in a world so ready to criticize the media.

Marina Jaimes, Opinions Editor

In an era dominated by “fake news” allegations toward the media and toward facts that strike negative chords with readers, it is important to establish fact from opinion.

That being said, opinions are based on fact and are established on how an individual interprets that fact.

Every section of a newspaper works together with one goal of creating a better informed public. At  The Daily Iowan, reporters provide insight on news, opinions, sports, politics, art, film, and photojournalism. While opinion columnists are bound by the same journalistic ethics as reporters, they abide by a standard that grants them permission to express their own feelings on a topic.

As the editor of the Opinions section, I see firsthand the range of opinions that can evolve from facts that are provided through statistics, budgets, polls, and news reports. The DI even offers a “Point/Counterpoint” article format that allows writers to explain their reasoning using the same set of facts provided to both writers.

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Unlike news and politics reporters, Opinions columnists are allowed to express their biases in an attempt to open the minds of readers to different points of view. They are entitled to that right and encouraged to provoke meaningful thought. Under no circumstance are they obligated to take a neutral position. Requiring them to do so would contradict the very title of an “Opinions” columnist.

I hope to see a growing number of diverse opinions in this section…not just taking in viewpoints that make us comfortable.

Opinions columnists have often specialized their writing to a certain interest area in which they have a background. Whether that background is in medicine, culture, environmental policy, or social justice, their expertise in that area does not hinder them from working as a columnist.

A writer with experience in conservative politics is equally as valuable as a writer with experience in liberal politics. Both voices are necessary to create a balanced page that is relatable to readers from all walks of life. In an opinions section, allegiance to a particular set of beliefs does not diminish the work of an article.

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It is important for this distinction to be made. As long as columnists report their opinion on factual findings, they are welcome to write on their stance.

My role as the Opinions editor has allowed me to realize this. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I applied for the position in the first place. I wanted to develop a deeper understanding of opinions that are different from my own. It’s been an eye-opening experience and I’m better because of it.

The DI would not have a successful opinions section if every reader was satisfied with every stance presented. I hope to see a growing number of diverse opinions in this section and invite readers to join me in becoming better at understanding the world we live in — not just taking in viewpoints that make us comfortable. It would be a failure of my role as editor to supply the public with only one idea day after day.