America’s Best: Chapter 6-Opinion and Persuasion

By Laura Smith

December 4, 2008

Of any type of writer, a reporter may have the biggest challenge. They are not allowed to voice their opinion, take a side, or show emotion. They have to report a story, giving straight facts and take no side. However, opinion and persuasion reporting is different. In this kind of writing, the journalist is able to tell a story and the facts but also incorporate his or her opinions and feelings into the story as well.

This type of writing gives the journalist flexibility and creativity to not just write about a story, but to convey it in a funny, sarcastic, angry, or sad way. This can be accomplished in several ways such as through the level of concrete or abstract language, the use of first or third person, the source of allusion, the use of metaphors, the complexity and length of sentences, the separateness from being neutral, the use of an offbeat perspective, and the tone.

One example of opinion and persuasion writing is seen in “Tugs at the Curtain, but Wizard’s Lips Remain Frozen,” written by Richard Aregood and published in The Philadelphia Daily News on March 15, 1990. In his article, Aregood uses a metaphor to compare federal budget politics to the Wizard of Oz, calling George Bush (senior) “George of Oz” and Ronald Reagan “Ronnie of La La Land.” Already, the reader can see the sarcastic bias. He continues to go on and explain the impact of Social Security taxes on the country. Aregood shows his opposition to the presidential decisions through sarcasm and emotion, all well telling a story and throwing out some facts and figures to make it legitimate. An example of sarcasm is when he says, “At least, the Wizard hung a medal on his chest for courage.” He shows more of an emotional side when he says, “It’s somehow sadly fitting that the most regressive of our taxes…is the one that’s used to hide the cost to this nation of Ronnie’s virtual exemption of rich people from taxation.”

Another example of opinion an persuasion writing is “A One-Word Assault on Women” by Donna Britt and published in the November 30, 1993 edition of The Washington Post. Britt describes the degradation of women in society and the influence that men’s opinions of women have. Throughout the article, she uses sarcasm (using “hmmm” and “cool” in sarcastic tones) and she openly expresses her feelings, saying that derogatory words towards women are saying, “you don’t deserve to live, your women are sluts and animals…Sure that’s all a lie.” Britt also shows the colors of opinion writing by making personal assumptions, saying things like “Still, most women hate being called that.”

The Pulitzer Prize winning story “Mr. Bush, This is Pro-Life?” written by Nicholas D. Kristof in The New York Times is a good example of opinion and persuasion reporting.  First of all, it is unique to opinion writing because it is written in the first person. Kristof begins, “When I walked into the maternity hospital here, I wished that President Bush were with me.” Kristof’s story speaks of women in places like Niger who die everyday from childbirth complications and the Bush administration is doing nothing to help it. He shows his talent in opinion reporting by not only adding graphic scenes to enhance emotion but displaying these emotions himself. At one point he says, “After watching Dr. Kayode save the life of Mrs. Issoufou and her baby, I was ready to drop out of journalism and sign up for medical school.” He also incorporates some angry emotion to the piece by putting down President Bush. He says, “Call me naïve, but I think that if Mr. Bush came here and saw women dying as a consequence of his confused policy, he would relent. This can’t be what he wants – or what America stands for.”

Another example of opinion and persuasion writing is Connie Shultz’s “Merry Christmas everyone-or else ” of The Plain Dealer, published on December 16, 2004. Her story revolves around the popular  attitude that corporate America should exude kind, cheerful, and “Christmasy” demeanor to customers, but since it’s all driven by consumerism, it is not real. She explains how a church pays $7,000 for an ad in the paper saying to keep “Christ in Christmas” and this kind of defeats this purpose. She uses slight sarcasm in her story and adds in her opinion. At one point, she says, “I’m confused. If we really want to go after what corporate America has done to Christmas, shouldn’t we stop buying all these – dare I say it? – things?” Essential to opinion reporting, she displays her own suggestions as well, saying what we should do at Christmas.

Gays May be Hope for Marriage,” by Leonard Pitts Jr. of The Miami Herald,  He discusses the position of gay marriage in comparison to words in the Bible, and they shouldn’t be taken so literally. Pitts uses opinion to oppose the position of ant-gay marriage and also uses good statistics about what others believe to back up his story. He also is unique in that he asks the reader questions about the subject as well.

Next, there is the editorial from The New York Times published on December 1, 2008, titled “Mr. Obama’s Team.” The author is not recognized. The author describes how Obama’s national security team is “a relief” compared to Bush’s. He gives a normal report while including some personal twists. For example, at one point he says, “Mr. Obama reached deeper into the Washington establishment — but in a bipartisan way …” He also uses first person opinion by making it seem as though he is one with the audience. For example, he says, “We have long admired Mrs. Clinton for her determination and her judgment and believe she will bring both to her new office at a critical time.” Unlike some of the other reporters, this one does not use sarcasm or rude language. He/She tells the story while including personal opinion but in a very professional and eloquent manner.

            Finally, Eugene Robinson of washingtonpost.com uses more great opinion and persuasion in his article, “A Team in Need of a Plan.” He talks about how Obama has a better plan for the War on Terror than Bush did. He says, “Terrorism (for the umpteenth time) is a tactic, not an enemy; Bush might as well declare war against flanking maneuvers or amphibious landings.” This is use of metaphor in opinion and persuasion reporting. Robinson also makes broad, general statements, another feature of this type of reporting. An example of this is, “Everyone knows what Bush is trying to say, and no one can deny the potential of terrorist attacks to destroy lives and change the world. Few would doubt that a line can be drawn between the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and last week’s bloody rampage in Mumbai. But is it a straight line or a zigzag? Is it bold or faint? Continuous or dotted?”

He also openly criticizes Bush’s views on the war. He writes, “The Bush administration correctly takes the position that all terrorism is evil. But that black-and-white view doesn’t take you very far toward useful policy choices.” All of these examples of sarcasm, opinion, emotion, and metaphor in opinion and persuasion reporting all come together to create an informative article, all while trying to persuade or influence the reader to think one way or another.


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