Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
Why do we write these columns? Do we expect to change minds? To magically change the opinions of our fellow students to match our own? It may seem like the Trinitonian opinion section is full of shouts into the void, just angry people hoping to cause an uproar about something. But the reality is that this section provides a space for caring that is unmatched by any other forum on campus.
This opinion section has seen no shortage of controversial arguments over the past several years. And yet, it’s also not rare to see readers question the importance of such opinions. “No one cares what you think,” said one anonymous TU Snaps contributor about opinion columns in the Trinitonian. A commenter on Kayla Padilla’s Greek Life column told her to “take action and actually [do] something rather than [write] garbage take articles for attention.”
While it is somewhat ironic that the people who supposedly “don’t care” about opinion articles are often the most angry about them, it is important to recognize the underlying point here: the value in publishing something that, at first glance, no one would care about. If a columnist is able to get a column thoroughly vetted by six different editors at the Trinitonian, as is the standard editorial process, then seven people have worked with this opinion and determined it has some sort of value to someone. With this in mind, saying that you don’t care about the opinion proves the value of the column in question. If a topic matters enough to someone for them to sit down and write 600 words about it, then it should be shared because there are people who don’t care about it. Not caring is a symptom of not experiencing something, and the column serves as a way to introduce this experience to those who don’t care.
Perhaps the importance of subjective opinion columns might seem less significant than objective reporting of the news. But both are equally valuable: news reporting tells us what is, while opinion tells us what could be, or what should be. This is not to say that opinion columns should not be based in objective fact. Intellectual honesty is the foundation for any good opinion, because it takes what everyone agrees upon to be true and provides a new take that provides a fresh perspective. As Dr. Andrew Cline says in his journalism blog Rhetorica, “Opinion journalists can make information useful by suggesting how to use it.” A column takes what is reported on in the news to a new level of analysis. What good is objective information if we do nothing with it?
Despite all these important parts of opinion columns, it may feel exhausting to have to care about all these opinions, especially when they challenge something to which you feel personally attached. Do we have a responsibility to care about Trinitonian opinion columns? Not necessarily, but we do have a responsibility to have some level of understanding about the people we interact with. We should want to know how people feel about something, because without this knowledge, what is the point of living in a society? The opinion section provides one way to communicate this sympathetic competence.
At face value, it might seem silly that people should care about what one college student wrote in a school paper. But these columns do not exist in a vacuum. They derive from real, lived experiences that reflect important aspects of someone’s life or their analysis of the current state of their surroundings. If there are people who don’t care about something like that, then that is all the more reason to keep publishing columns, in the hope that more people begin to care for the lived experiences of people they go to class with, eat food with and go to parties with.
| Class of 2020 | Major: Anthropology