Wick Communications

Opining about opinions

In Opinion pages on June 30, 2011 at 4:13 pm

This blog post, which first appeared last week, caused quite a stir among those who write opinions for a living. Marketing man Jorg Pierach begins by writing, “If you want my opinion, it’s time for newspapers to get out of the opinion business.”

He argues, passionately if not (in my opinion) particularly persuasively, that today people have access to many authoritative opinions. Folks with particular interest in music or politics or whatever can find all the opinion they want online. He says newspapers should focus on what they do best – coverage of local news and providing analysis of things that are right in the wheelhouse. In other words, we should be concentrating on our unique value proposition.

Well, I agree with that, but I would argue that opinion on local issues is a vital part of what makes our content unique. I agree that some of our opinions are more useful than others: I’m not sure anyone needs the Half Moon Bay Review to tell them how to vote for president. But I know that very few of our readers have the time to interview each candidate for 37 elected positions in our readership area. I know I count on the local newspaper to render an opinion on candidates and issues that I don’t necessarily have the time to research myself. …

As you might expect, those who write newspaper opinion pieces didn’t think much of Pierach’s piece and the comments flew on news blogs. You could argue that editorial writers can’t be objective on the subject, and I think you would be right. For someone who thinks newspapers share too much opinion, Pierach doesn’t mind sharing his thoughts — he once wrote a post headlined, “Newspapers are toast.”

All of which points to something important, I think. Readers are consumers. Let the buyer beware, even if the buyer doesn’t pay a plug nickel for what he’s getting. I think readers are much more sophisticated than they were a generation ago when it comes to questioning the motives of opinion writers. I imagine that most still consider the local newspaper a better source of opinion on local issues than any online outlet. That’s my opinion, anyway.

— Clay

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  1. Newspaper opinion pieces made up the foundation of the newspaper industry in America or were at least a keystone. Bloggers are a dime a dozen, but newspapers have credibility that opinion pieces and editorials helped establish. Shutting down that voice because anybody with a computer and an opinion can share them on the Internet, in my opinion, is ridiculous. On the other hand, I think it is important that any opinion pieces or editorials published actually make a statement and take a stand.

  2. Well said, Jessica. Thank you.

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