The Varsity’s Comment section is dedicated to providing an open forum for contributors to express their opinions on a variety of issues that are meaningful to students. The point of the section is to generate discussion and challenge readers to consider a range of different perspectives and viewpoints.
The Varsity asked three writers to reflect on what the Comment Section — and any newspaper opinion section, in general — means for journalism.
An opinion section lends colour to a newspaper
A million different newspapers will report on the same event — a regurgitation of the same set of words and vocabulary. The Varsity will report on some of the same news as the New York Times or The Guardian. So why would any reasonably-minded person ever read The Varsity? Why choose a simple student newspaper over a reputable, professional newspaper whose ranks are filled with the world’s best journalists? To me, the answer is short and sweet: for its Comment section.
Take, for instance, news of extensive protests in a country. The news section will offer its thesaurus-generated account of the event. It might give statistics, causes of the protest, or even contextual information. But what inspires passion, motivates readers, and persuades them to take part in a protest is the rhetoric and ideas of an opinion section. It tells readers why the protests matter — or why they don’t matter.
An opinion section is the platform for a newspaper to give this valuable, precious perspective. It gives colour to the black and white news reporting and paints a newspaper with the dynamic and vivid hues of different ideas and opinions. In The Varsity’s case, the Comment section exposes readers to the unique, persuasive opinion and thoughts of U of T students — something not found anywhere else.
James Jiang is a third-year student at Trinity College studying political science and writing & rhetoric.
Opinion is both guidance and controversy
Opinion is both guidance and controversy. No other section of a newspaper can provide the two wildly different phenomena simultaneously. Especially for the young generation, with the abundance of information and news-based journalism, discerning and formulating an opinion that stands above mere facts has become more important than ever. The opinion section has the power to help devise objectivity via the subjectivity.
My memory from when I first read an opinion piece by a Vietnamese immigrant in South Korea is vivid. Through that single piece, my 12-year-old self became cognizant of both the racist bigotry of Korean society and the power of an opinion piece that could ‘open eyes.’
While traditional news-based journalism delivers a single fact or two to the readers, the opinion section introduces interpretations of those facts. I can choose not to agree with an individual who writes an opinion piece on why the logic of pro-life academics is not inherently flawed, but I can choose to learn why the sturdy support of the logic is sustained. Opinions may be controversial, but they both guide and develop my thinking and logic, and that is an asset that is more necessary than ever.
Eleanor Park is a second-year student at Trinity College studying English and religion. She is an associate comment editor at The Varsity.
An opinion section is space for free thinking
When constructing the three branches of United States government for the first time in 1789, the founding fathers chose to have all the leaders of the country be elected by rule of democracy and fairness. For all institutions, but one: the Supreme Court. Back then, their justification was to keep the Court as non-political as possible — an open table of people, who approached issues purely by their facts and nothing more.
All discourse on how that ultimately turned out aside, I see newspaper opinion sections as something similar to the original vision of a Supreme Court. It is a space for free thinking and expression, barring any outside influence that may intentionally warp the voice of the author. Arguments and judgements are made based on evidence, and any forms of bias are at least supported and legitimized. Opinion sections ensure that there is a degree of free discourse and engagement in an otherwise straightforward blank-reporting newspaper.
Isabella Liu is a second-year student at Victoria College studying international relations, public policy and environmental studies. She is an associate comment editor at The Varsity.