Hello, my name is Alanna Thiede, and I have opinions. That is why I am the opinion editor at The State News for the next few months. You are a reader of The State News, and you likely have opinions too. That is why you should take advantage of the soap box at which you currently are looking.
The opinion page in a newspaper is a unique opportunity for readers to paddle upstream in the persistent — and mostly one way — flow of information. In a world of “feeds” on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, it can seem as if information is only for consumption, not conversation. There are many ways to be heard on the opinion page of The State News by thousands of readers and those who view the online content. It is my hope that at least a few of you want to take advantage.
Guest columnists, including MSU students, staff and East Lansing community members often provide a viewpoint much different than the ones offered by The State News staff. We always are looking for committed, passionate people willing to put themselves out there.
And that means opening yourself up to hateful email, discouraging comments and criticism that are quite common in response. I always have thought one should not publish or share their viewpoints without some ability to understand and listen to the absolute opposite opinion.
It’s the nature of the beast. Opinions are very personal. Every word chosen, logical argument made or experience explained is a piece of the writer.
It would be a wonderful world if people respected such an intimate sharing of a person’s essence, but respect can be hard to find. Especially with the anonymity of online commentators, sharing anything remotely controversial or against the grain is bound to draw out the worst in people.
That being said, without conflicting ideas, there would be no opinion page. My heart races when a pissed off reader takes to ranting about how stupid we all are and how everything we’ve ever said is a lie. I love it. Some do not. Before submitting yourself to the potentially harmful thoughts of others, consider how tough your skin is.
If, indeed, you are up to it, then write. Write about what interests you, what students care about and what you think people should know. Columns should be fairly specific in the chosen topic and engaging for readers of all backgrounds. Challenge them to think and do not be afraid to challenge the status quo.
Another way to get your words on this page is to write a letter to the editor. There undoubtably will be times you will question what is written in the newspaper, why something was not covered or disagree with the stance of a source. Letters are a quick and easy way to rant, praise or bring attention to a person, organization or issue you believe needs to be recognized.
Finally, the easiest way to participate in this dialogue is to comment on articles. The Internet is the perfect opportunity to speak out. There is a relative anonymity, which I do not believe should be exploited, but that space beneath any online content is a free-for-all.
Tweet at us. Our Twitter handle is @thesnews_opine. As opinion editor, I hope to use Twitter and all its potential. It is a fast, short conversation space that can be used for any number of arguments, discussions or suggestions. See you there.
Of course, I’d love to hear how great you think every word we write is, but I know most communication likely will be more negative. I will cherish it. I’d rather receive 15 emails tearing an editorial apart than only one kindhearted kudos.
I am not here to be praised. Opinion writer Laz Jackson and I are here to help you, the readers, engage in a constructive and eye-opening dialogue and give you a voice. This only works, however, if readers choose to make themselves known, to push information back at us and tell us when we fail you.
Alanna Thiede is the State News opinion editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.