From the opinion editor: respect that Collegian columns are opinion, not fact

Haleigh McGill

First of all, the point of this column is not to say that rebuttals, differing opinions, outrage or praise for our opinion columns and general comments about the content are not welcome. They are actually encouraged and desirable, as differing of opinions is what sparks important discussion, and strong feelings about certain opinions are what keep those discussions going.

The point is, however, to suggest that if you are going to comment directly on a column posted to the Collegian‘s website, or are going to send an email to letters@collegian.com regarding a specific piece you read online or in the paper, please keep in mind that what you just read is an opinion.

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I’ve recently gotten a few emails that point to certain opinion columns and say something along the lines of “I’m upset by this column because these are not facts, these are opinions.” Before you get upset about a writer’s opinion being included in the work, please remember that you are reading an opinion column. Yes, many of the columns include facts, statistics, sources and quotes to back up a point, but at the end of the day, the soul and purpose of the column is the writer’s opinion. The goal of the opinion desk is to start a discussion with each column, a form of “the great conversation,” if you will, and we’ve gotten incredibly insightful, helpful and supportive feedback that contributes greatly to this goal and helps the opinion desk to think beyond what we have written.

Additionally, we get a lot of comments on the site regarding opinion columns that use vulgar language and personal attacks on the writer to make a point. Aside from the fact that there are guidelines right above the comment field that say,

  • Be nice, courteous, and stay on topic;
  • No profanity, name-calling/personal attacks, or inappropriate content;
  • If you harass others or joke about tragedies, you will be blocked;
  • No spam posts, or posts trying to sell anything.

I think the use of profanity and personal attacks says more about the commenter than about who or what they are commenting about. Unless it is part of a quote or source paraphrase included in the column, our writers don’t use vulgar language to make their points. The opinion desk also does not use shallow personal attacks on our subjects to back up our points. If a strong opinion pointed at the subject of a column is made, we back it up with specific sources and examples as to why we came to that conclusion. There has to be a better way to communicate how you feel about a published column than referring to a writer as a “semen stain” or saying that a writer “has no values or morals.” Comments like those two examples will be deleted.

It’s difficult to judge a writer’s morals based on how they feel about one issue in particular that is discussed in their recent column. Yes, their opinions could provide insight into who they are as a person, but you don’t have the whole picture unless you know them personally.  Resorting to name-calling tells me that the commenter took the easy way out instead of crafting a more educated, more thoughtful explanation as to why they disagree or are angry with the published opinion.

We want your feedback, and as the Opinion Editor, I can tell you that I value feedback from readers very highly. However, we also want you to be courteous and to respect the writer the way you’d want someone to respect you when exchanging ideas and opinions.

So please, send an email or post a comment with disagreements, other opinions, additional facts or sources that could have been examined in relevance to the topic or questions as to how a conclusion was reached by the writer. I just ask that you keep it professional, courteous, and bear in mind that you are responding to an opinion column, not a news story that relies only on facts.

Collegian Opinion Editor Haleigh McGill can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.