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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Eagle
abigail pritchard headshot (letter from the editor)

From the Newsroom: Opinion columns, op-eds and solidifying our process

Increasing media literacy and transparency in opinion pieces

Now more than ever, media literacy is of paramount importance. It is also extremely difficult to acquire. This will be the first in a series of columns explaining our reporting, editing and publishing processes in the hopes of increasing transparency and making our coverage more accessible. 

I intend here to clarify the role that op-eds and opinion pieces play in our coverage, and to codify how and why we publish them. While opinion pieces do not reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff, we must recognize the role we play in platforming particular viewpoints. Opinion journalism is a place for meaningful discussion and can be a powerful tool to help us make sense of some of the most pressing issues of the day with new perspectives.

Op-eds, which come from outside contributors, and opinion columns, written by our staff columnists, are all currently marked as opinion pieces in their headline. This will continue, but going forward they will be marked with a note stating that “The following piece is an opinion and does not reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff. All opinions are edited for grammar, style and argument structure and fact-checked, but the opinions are the writer’s own.” This note will also be backdated to opinion columns and op-eds from the last school year. 

I hope that this column will help clarify for readers that they are reading an opinion by a specific writer and the role editors have in crafting that piece. 

Guidelines for the submission

Opinion columns are those written by members of staff on the opinion section. Op-eds and letters to the editor are submissions from community members to express a viewpoint pertaining to something The Eagle has covered, or which is relevant to the campus. Going forward, op-eds will be called “guest columns” to make it clearer to the reader that they come from community members. According to The Eagle’s ethics code, these function as “reader feedback and participation in the publication.”

Generally, Eagle editors have had guidelines that they apply to these guest columns — they must be relevant and fact-based. However, The Eagle currently has no codified criteria that a guest column must meet to be published. This has not served our readers or our paper well. Without clear and consistent guidelines, pieces that do not meet the high standards of the rest of The Eagle’s work are left in a gray area. It has historically made the most sense for editors to publish any piece that expresses an opinion on something relevant to the community, because there were no guidelines in place providing a standard by which to judge those pieces. 

While the guest column section should always function as a place for constructive feedback and underrepresented viewpoints, guest columns should also always be valuable to the reader and be based in fact. This has always been true, but it is important that we make it explicitly clear.

Going forward, when reviewing a guest column submission, editors must explicitly confirm that it expresses an opinion of community value, a unique perspective on a common topic or is highly relevant in terms of newsworthiness. Arguments might pertain to identity and lived experience, which tend to strengthen them. They must also be well argued, based in fact and thoroughly vetted. Every fact must have a link to a reputable source, and facts that editors cannot verify will not be published. Broad assertions must be based on verified facts, and primary sources are the best to link to. Guest columns should offer constructive criticism, challenge and engage readers and start conversations with perspectives that may be new to readers. 

The Eagle does not publish anonymous guest columns. While we understand that people might have safety concerns, it is essential that writers can be held accountable for their arguments. In general, we try to avoid publishing guest columns attributed to groups, unless it is the only way to hear a valuable, unique  perspective on an important topic. 

While these guidelines have always been the goal of our op-ed section, I have found that without specific guidelines and criteria to follow it is difficult to assess an op-ed’s value. I hope that this column and the above rules, which will be written on the guest column section of the website, will help that. 

Opinion pieces should be between about 500 and 800 words, and writers can submit pitches to the opinion section managing editor for approval before the drafting and editing process begins. We appreciate and value these pitches, and hope to publish any and all that meet our guidelines. 

If you wish to submit a guest column, email your pitch to opinion@theeagleonline.com.

Copy editing done by Luna Jinks.

apritchard@theeagleonline.com 


Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 



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