How to write for page five, why

Column by Eloise Lynch. E-mail [email protected].

Are you opinionated? Or just thoughtful? Do you like to express your opinions and thoughts before a broad and diverse audience? Do you like to write? Do believe in democracy?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your dream job may well lie in opinion or editorial writing.

Cassidy Herrington, Kernel Opinion Editor, recommends opinions writing for a number of reasons. Herrington revealed in an interview that while the Opinion section falls three or four pages beneath news stories, she feels it is vital to American democracy. “It’s a forum where everyone can participate,” she said. And Opinion stories can have a far-reaching impact — Herrington’s story “’Undercover’ in Hijab” reached readers in more than a hundred countries.

Not convinced yet? Perhaps you think newspaper writing is too fact-driven and impersonal for you. Well listen to this: Opinion writers don’t have to worry about many of the restrictions involved with news writing, as Tim Harrower notes in his book, “Inside Reporting: A Practical Guide to the Craft of Journalism.” Harrower lists three main types of Opinion stories, and each requires a personal touch.

A “topical commentary” piece, for example, begs personal commentary concerning “political events and social controversies;” you wouldn’t simply tell what happened, but use your opinions, recollections and emotions to animate the event for the reader. “Personal meditation” stories clearly concern the revelation of personal “truths that resonate with readers,” such as “painful, poignant, and humorous insights about families, friends and social relationships.” In writing a “slice-of-life” Opinion piece, you would act as a “storyteller” depicting colorful scenes from everyday lives. Sounds fun, right?

Now that you’re hooked, here are some tips from writers Tim Harrower, Cassidy Herrington, Jason Grant, an English major and JAR editor, and Chris McCurry, the former Cat’s Figment editor in chief, to get you started on your way to becoming an Opinion writer:

1. Craft your own “distinctive voice.” Herrington says that the most successful Opinion stories are “honest” and “upfront.” Don’t feel you have to edit your writing to sound scholarly or mute your perspective to sound moderate. Chris McCurry said “you don’t want to compromise your voice to fit in with [a] magazine.”

2. “Inform your opinions.” Herrington warned that if your opinions aren’t supported with “facts and evidence,” your readers won’t pay any attention to what you have to say.

3. Write about “worthy topics.” Harrower warns against writing about common or cliché topics. Jason Grant asserted that editors will favor writing that “surprises them” and offers “something new.”

Put your opinions, writing skills and patriotism to work in Opinion writing. You might just find that it’s your dream job.