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Opinion

Reactions to columns should be published

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October 18, 2007

Each week five or six individuals go out on a limb before the entire River Falls community. These people spend their time contemplating situations that ask lots of questions and produce few answers. They frame their commentary in phrases that combine fact-based reporting with literary prose. These people are your very own columnists here at the Student Voice.

A lot of people criticize the Voice for offering so much opinion when the space could be used for hard news. But the fact is that there is no hard news without opinion, whether that opinion comes before or after the fact. And it is this opinion which frames how each news story is received by the public.

It would also seem to an outsider that columnists have it easy. A columnist doesn’t have to go out and research massive amounts of data or conduct interviews when he or she sits down to write a column. Many, however, do gather data to support their arguments when data is available.

And the same standards apply to opinion pieces as to news stories. Any facts must be checked and confirmed. Quotations must be accurate. The point is not to be rude and write nonsense with the sole purpose being to poke fun at somebody or something. The point is to raise questions which need to be addressed and to inform the readership of conditions in society where there may be some disagreement.

But the hardest part of being an opinion writer for any publication comes from the fact that every time we sit down to write our piece, we submit ourselves to a host of criticism.

Here at the Student Voice, each column is published with the full name and a picture of the person writing. So not only can anyone who reads the paper look us up on the University’s people search or Facebook, but they can also spot us walking to class during the week. There is absolutely no anonymity, and here we are taking a side on issues that may potentially make us instant enemies to any number of people.

This is how it should be. After all, we did sign up for the job, and we choose the topics we want to write about.

Yet those who choose to reply to these columns are also choosing to voice their opinions, and I do not think it is fair for them to hide behind personal e-mails or other messages directed only to the columnist. After all, the point is to raise concerns and expose conflicting viewpoints.

In the last four weeks that I have been composing columns for the Voice, I have personally received messages regarding three of my columns. I congratulate those of you who did respond, but honestly, what good do you think it will do? I have already published my opinion, and I wouldn’t be an opinionated person if I wrote about things I could easily change my mind about.

So here’s the point. Please write. Just don’t write to me. If you’re bold enough to tell me what you think of me or my ideas, be bold enough to make it as public as I and my fellow columnists do. Send your complaints to my editor. I guarantee that I will personally get the message as well. Believe it or not, I want the whole world to know exactly what you think of me.

Katrina Styx is a student at UW-River Falls.