The power of opinion

Opinions sections are the pinnacle of influence.

But, while they are popular, journalistic opinion is often overlooked by readers. People may get the impression that opinions pages in newspapers don’t necessarily inform people but rather influence them.

As an opinions editor myself, I sometimes feel like readers – and even fellow editors – may not realize the importance of journalistic opinion. They might assume opinions articles have no structure, that op-ed writers simply rant without providing evidence or that the article has nothing to do with reporting factual information. I’m convinced many people get the idea that writing for opinions is elementary, that this lack of structure somehow translates into simplistic writing.

Opinions are so much more than, “I think this sucks,” or “I think this is amazing.” It’s a personal essay that requires thought and research. It’s more structured than you would think. You have to create a strong argument and defend it. You have to raise counterpoints and analyze them. You have to pick apart other opinions and find ways to cultivate yours into being influential. Finally, you have to wrap it all up in a neat and succinct call to action.

It’s taken me years to cultivate my voice and claim myself as an op-ed writer. I used to just be a ranter, blasting my feelings on Facebook until I began to solidify my points with proof. I just didn’t give the deets, I also had the receipts.

Don’t get me wrong, rants can hold just as much power as other Op-Eds, as rants fit along the opinions-writing spectrum, but there needs to be support and validity to what your message is.

In a Huffington Post article titled, “15 Important Truths About Opinion,” by Katie Hoffman, Hoffman notes that, “We have a habit of assuming that opinions are regulated by common sense.”

We hear opinions in daily conversations regarding politics, social issues, popular culture, etc., but there is a difference between telling someone that you like a Halo and telling them why it’s a good game.

“Everyone has an opinion,” is a phrase I hear often from my peers and that’s a totally fair statement. Yet, not everyone knows how to craft their opinion.

I dare to say this — writing opinions is the most challenging style of writing.

Reporting news is straightforward. Feature writing is more personal and can hold first-person elements, but it’s more of a profile than opinion-based. These are all about facts and information while op-eds are about challenging others to think differently.

The power behind people’s voices is tremendous and can influence others to do something, whether it’s protesting, making policy changes or simply giving back to their community.

Strong opinions evoke change.

Thought leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Audre Lorde have shaped our opinions on peace and civil rights. In the same way, dictators like Adolf Hitler and Fidel Castro have shaped public consensus on matters like racial supremacy and extremist politics. It’s scary to think about, but opinions affect us so much more than we give them credit for.

These opinions are always around to influence us.

See, I’ve always wanted to be a public figure since I was a child.

Not a celebrity or politician or anything in between. My aim wasn’t necessarily to become famous necessarily, but rather to make my voice heard.

If you’ve ever met me, you’d think I’d have an immense personality and a mastery over my own voice. But, the irony is that I grew up thinking my opinion didn’t matter. I was bullied often, picked on for my weight, my speech impediment, my sexuality, etc. It seemed as if my entire being provided endless ammunition for discrimination. It took me awhile to learn how to fight back, not physically, but through my words.

I would write in journals during class and at home. I wrote stories, I wrote poetry and I wrote my thoughts. I would form opinions about the world around me and craft words to combat the war zones of recess and lunchtime gossip. Those words became my armor, which I carried with me throughout primary school.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I solidified my voice. It was Valyrian Steel and sharper than diamonds. It was so powerful that I began to see the weight it could carry in people’s own thoughts. I realized that my voice could be influential — that my opinions could affect the way someone thinks.

According to a New York Times article titled “Op-Ed and You,” by Trish Hall, people write “for the influence, for the chance to reach an audience, to say something that’s been bothering them, driving them crazy, something that no one else seems to be saying.”

Opinions sections are so much more than billboards for people to rant on. They’re spaces and platforms for people to be heard and others to read.

If you’ve ever read my other pieces, I’ll sound like a broken record because I’m constantly pushing the notion of exercising your voice — I cannot stress enough how much your voice matters.

If you want to be heard, then all you have to do is speak.

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