Specialty Columns

You are about to embark on writing your first column for this class. I understand this can be a daunting task. As we have discussed in previous classes,this is a two stage process: (1) per-writing: the first task in this process is deciding what to write about and which angle to take on the issue of choice based on your through research and data you have gathered during this process; the second task in thinking about your audiences and where they most likely stand on the issue and how accepting they might be to your position, (2) during the writing: elements that are important for your opinion piece, your point of view and your voice, the lead and the rest of the structure.
Somewhere in the middle of this process, there is another task you need to think about: the GOAL of your opinion piece! Before starting to write your opinion piece, you need to consider what goal do you aim to achieve? And then after you write your piece, you need to re-evaluate if the arguments and data you present achieve that goal!
Here are a couple of directions that might help you in this “thinking process.”
The role of opinion pieces is threefold. They can:
  • incite debate/discussion
  • promote a point of view
  • entertain
Thus, based on the content they offer, there are three types of column writing:
  1. Political commentary 
  2. Sports commentary
  3. Lifestyle commentary 

Political Commentary

Political Commentary includes opinion articles that focus on government, the political process, election campaigns and candidates, policy issues. A political columnist’s well-reasoned arguments and insightful observations help shape debate on important public issues. These type of columns sticks close to the news, helping readers make sense of the compellingly important stories of the day.
The role of political commentary is to tackle social issues by:
  • commenting,
  • criticizing, or
  • applauding

Sports Commentary

These are columns that focus on on prep, college and pro sports.

Fans turn to sports analysis and commentary particularly:
1.Explanation of something they saw but don’t understand
2.See if the columnist’s view of what happened confirms their own view (validation)
When reading a sports commentary, readers/fans are looking for strategy, key players or turning points, individual or team performances that make a big difference, the statistical context for performances by individuals and teams, and the look-ahead angle.
Good dispassionate sports commentary involves:
  • Critical analysis and
  • Gloves-off hard hitting on the game, the athletes, the business, and the fans.

Lifestyle Columns

These type of columns examine the stories bypassed by the daily news, focusing on amusing issues and issues with a human dimension. They include stories about personal trials and triumphs. Lifestyle commentary can have several goals:
  • Support
  • Enlighten
  • Inspire
  • Educate
These stories ask for readers sympathy and engagement: What about you? Can you imagine being homeless? Would you like to loose those extra pounds? Would you like to learn how to cook?
Personal columns might be a double-edged sword. They might offer the readers a warm heart-to-heart or treats them to a shared vicarious thrill – the self-revelation kind; but at the same time thy can be nothing more than narcissistic monologues – the self-absorption type.

In order to be a successful writer you always need to aspire for the ‘self-revelation’ type of stories, when the reader sees an aspect of his/her life mirrored in the story.

When writing lifestyle columns, you need to consider the following:
  • It’s not about you: Shared experiences should point to larger issues
  • Do not vent: channel the drama into something higher
  • Do not preach: readers do not like to be told what to do and worst to feel they are stupid
  • Readers are not your preacher: avoid making plain confessions that have no informational values to your readers
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