Readers should scrutinize public opinions

Printed editorials need to have research, consumers must consider all pieces



Several opinion sections from other news sources have received the axe. Some attribute this to the sensationalist styles of these sites, showing the importance of writer research and reader skepticism.

BRUCE MULMAT, Evergreen columnist

Everyone has an opinion. They’re quite easy to share, but hard to handle.

News sites rely on opinion writers to help shape the conversation around issues that need to be reported on. Some news sources have been facing backlash for the way they shape narratives with a lack of information. Many attribute this to why many of these outlets are shutting down.

Buzzfeed is considered the epitome of clickbait journalism. Their sensationalist headlines and too often inaccurate reporting unsurprisingly landed them in trouble. Yet this isn’t the only site whose opinion writers did not do the legwork of properly seeking out all the information for a piece they need to write.

The shutdown of the opinion rooms of Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post along with the layoffs of these writers has caused mixed responses from media outlets. Some view these actions as larger parent companies trying to stifle the voices of those who speak out against injustice in the world, while some consider it consequences of poor writing and a lack of research.

However, the root of the issue is that these sites did not intend to give viewers all the facts. Rather, they were designed to provoke people and get more views.

These sites deserve to be called out for their lack of sources and their decision to favor money over providing credible information. But readers need to be active when they read these columns and be able to measure their validity to ensure these sites stay reliable.

Lawrence Pintak, professor of communication at WSU, teaches a course on understanding the function and conduct of contemporary news and knows how to analyze an opinion column.

“The first thing to look out for is the publisher,” Pintak said. “If it is coming from sources like the Washington Post or the New York Times, they can generally be trusted.”

These news sites have the resources and authors with the authority on the topics they write about. They also have a longstanding reputation for accurate reporting, giving them more credibility than other online news sites.

“Also, do some research on the author and see if they are even qualified to speak on the topic,” Pintak said.

Doing research on the contents of a column is important for anyone, so consider this just keeping your thinking skills sharp. By questioning these sites, you make them work towards being more accurate in the future. But it doesn’t mean you need to be rude about it.

Larger news sites, like the New York Times, have the ability to provide all the information they need for columns and still make mistakes. But they correct them responsibly. Smaller organizations like The Daily Evergreen lack the resources these other publications have but still do everything they can to act on the same standard.

The Evergreen is a student-run publication and cannot have every writer be an expert in whatever subject they discuss in their writing. Nevertheless, every piece is researched and reasoned to the best of the writer’s ability. Mistakes indicate places where people starting along this path to improve.

So when you catch something bizarre about a column, know that only a polite correction is needed to help the writer consider corrections to their story.