The best session I attended so far was “Everyone has an Opinion. So why are they so hard to write?” It was led by Flagler College’s Brian Thompson, who engaged the audience in a discussion format rather than a lecture. Off the bat, I was intrigued and participatory because Thompson had a charisma and bluntness about him that was refreshing and amicable. Initially, he had every attendee write down an opinions column idea, but instead decided to open it up to a conversation between him and everyone in attendance.
Some of the questions asked by students involved how to relate important international and national issues into a school-based publication. Many newspapers require students to constantly have a school angle to them, which is fair, but a debate was born of this discussion: if an international or national issue about, for example, human rights isn’t of concern or care for a school audience, what does that say about the newspaper’s sense of humanity? Other topics were brought up, such as how to come up with column ideas. Thompson suggested to simply go out and experience something. He talked about one student who dumpster dove for a whole week and wrote an award-winning column afterward about her experience.
Thompson’s session was not only great because he as a speaker was witty, informative and to-the-point, but because I and others in the room had ample opportunities to speak out and express our opinions. And in a session about opinions writing, it was evident that everybody had a sufficient amount of ideas to exchange with one another, which was a great experience. I found myself quite disappointed that 50 minutes had passed so quickly.
Some helpful advice discussed in the session included the following:
- Have confidence in your writing.
- How do smaller issues relate to a bigger, more overarching idea?
- Write about something you are interested in.
- Write like a college student, not a bureaucrat.
- Don’t be afraid to push people’s buttons.
- Don’t simply rant in a column and interject your voice in every piece.
- Be able to boil down your idea to one word or sentence to ensure it is concise.