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Old 07-13-08, 05:15 PM
Lori Freeze Lori Freeze is offline
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Location: Mountain View
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Default 2008 Session - Opinion Writing

Opinion Writing - with John Brummett and Jake Bleed

Jake Bleed, an editorial writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, pointed out that it is an uncertain time for journalists but in this economy there are more opportunities than ever to provide perspective and analysis.

John Brummett, a columnist for Arkansas News Bureau, said newspaper space devoted to opinion columns is a premium space, so a columnist should deliver a premium product. He writes what he refers to as a “reporting column,” working in an opinion as he tells a story. Comments: “I would rather tell you something you don’t know than opine on something we both know already.” “My opinion is only better than someone else’s if it’s based on advanced information.”

John said he spends a lot of time on the phone talking to sources to verify statements and gather additional information, and Jake noted that sources will often want to explain something that was only touched on in a news story. A greater truth arises, John says, from collecting different perspectives. Jake adds: “Keep making calls until you stop hearing new information.”

Paul Greenberg was credited for the Write Drunk, Edit Sober model which Brummett endorses. He starts writing without inhibition, then prints it and starts thinking and editing. Ruthlessly cutting the word count will usually improve the writing by forcing you to be more concise. Another tip: “If you find yourself writing ‘In other words …’, stop right there and say it right the first time.”

Jake said editorial writing is an opportunity to “say what everybody is thinking, but no one has said.” Also, stories that have developed over days in news accounts can be summarized and put in perspective through an editorial. Brummett: News stories present factual information, but opinion writers can draw conclusions based on those facts.

When asked what most piques their interest, Jake responded, “skulduggery in all its forms, and being lied to”; John said it’s when someone says something ridiculous or is clearly just BS’ing. Also, fascinating people stories get John’s attention.

As John pointed out in making his comment about the importance of getting different perspectives, the same conversation or action can be seen/heard differently by different people, so it will be interesting to see how many different takes there were on this session.
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