This year I have worked as the Assistant Opinion Editor of The Oppidan Press, a student newspaper at Rhodes University, and have developed my own opinions about the place of columns and opinion pieces in the journalism industry. Basically, they are dead.
I thoroughly enjoyed working for the section this year, and dedicated many hours not only writing articles, but to developing content with various writers. The questions that persistently followed me, no matter the article or the writer, were whether the writer was appropriate for the article, and whether the writer’s opinion, no matter how informed, was the right opinion to be broadcasting to the Rhodes community.
This escalated when discussions regarding the change of the university’s name came up. I decided not to publish any articles one way or the other. After all, why should one person’s views deserve to be published when every single member of the community had an opinion in one way or another? This is the problem with opinion sections – they are premised entirely in an exclusionary way. Deciding whose opinions get to be publicised is a bourgeois practice.
The solution is vox pop techniques, which entails gathering many people’s brief explanations of their opinions, in order to gain an understanding of a community’s predominant feeling around an issue.
So, basically, Twitter.
Social media has made opinion sections irrelevant, because far more relevant opinions, of those directly involved with issues in communities, can now be realised by journalists without having to pick-and-choose as to whose opinion is the right one to publish. I encourage journalists to grasp the advantages social media hold in this regard.