Finally, the op-ed is getting the attention it deserves! The “explosive” anonymous op-ed The New York Times published on Wednesday, September 5 has opened up new opportunities for the often overlooked op-ed. Its reach is no longer limited to academics, politicians and intellectuals.
Op-ed writers published in major newspapers, such as The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, remain disproportionately white, male and older. The same is likely to hold true for your local paper. According to an article in the Columbia Journalism Review, The Op-Ed project and other sources, women and people of color generally write less than twenty percent of published opinion pieces.
Now is the time for more confident and diverse writers to expand the country’s perspective on public policies for the greater good of our democracy. Scholars and political pundits are not the only ones with observations, thoughts and suggestions that can inform the public or generate a broader discussion.
Although social media caters to a broader audience, newspapers still count. Our country’s political, business and financial leaders still get news from traditional media sources. Consequently, op-eds provide you with the opportunity to engage with the people who make policies about a broad scope of issues, ranging from funding for schools in your neighborhood to nuclear disarmament agreements.
For years, my colleagues and I have hosted workshops on the “why” and “how” of op-eds at national conferences, only to be met by yawning and bored audiences. Yes, it may have been the presentation, but I think that ordinary working people and local community leaders do not readily recognize how much their own opinions influence the public debate. The exigent fuss about The New York Times’ mysterious piece may inspire more people to submit their own perspectives to the newspapers.
More people need to know these basics: “Op-Ed” is short for “opposite the editorial page,” not “opinion editorial.” Generally, the author does not work for and is not affiliated with the publication. The op-ed, letter to the editor, blog and editorial are all different mediums. (Google them.)
Whether you think the author of the anonymous editorial, who has cable news, the White House and political activists mounting search parties for their identity, is a traitor or a patriot, they have certainly brought attention to the power of the op-ed. I can’t remember a time when the general public gave this much attention to or became so frenzied over a written opinion.
The folks at the Op-Ed Project, the Poynter Institute and journalism schools must be popping the champagne. The political dynamite of this now scandalous op-ed will likely surge interest in the formerly forlorn editorial pages.
The moral of this story is that you, too, should express your opinions, thoughts and observations through the op-ed pages. Your perspectives are important and can help bring about change, awareness and conversations.
Submit and share your opinion.