The journalism of opinion

Some people denigrate an opinion because it differs from their own

Regular readers of any periodical, especially community newspapers, will notice the publication is usually separated into different sections, especially if the newspaper has, say, over 40 pages.

There is one special section, though, that’s always clearly delineated and in my opinion is one of the most important parts of any newspaper: the opinion section.

The opinion section can include an editorial written by a news department staff member to draw attention to a problem in the community, an opinion column written by staff or community members to voice the writer’s view on any number of issues or letters to the editor, which give every reader a chance to comment on material they’ve seen in the newspaper or issues in the community.

The journalism of opinion doesn’t seem as popular as it has been in the past. One of the newspapers I worked at didn’t even have an opinion section because the publisher was afraid of offending people in the community.

Also, in our world of social media, it appears that opinions are considered wrong if anyone disagrees with them. Personally, I respect other opinions, even if I don’t agree with them, but there are many nowadays, even in government, business and the media, that if you do not clearly agree with their characterization or opinions, you are automatically “wrong,” regardless of any evidence you present to prove your argument.

For example, it’s my opinion that the reasoning behind carbon taxes, provincial and federal handling of pipeline projects and Canadian climate change strategies are monumentally flawed. The most obvious piece of evidence is that some if not all governments currently in power didn’t campaign on carbon taxes which is another name for a sales tax; or if some claim they did, they did not do so clearly and honestly. Offering public consultation on a major change in government regulation after the change has already become law is dishonest. The justification for provincial and federal governments bungling pipeline projects can’t be made; eastern Canada buys oil from Saudi Arabia, a nation implicated in the recent murder of a journalist, yet eastern Canadian jackasses say Alberta’s oil products have “moral questions” surrounding them.

Then there are shaky arguments for Canadian climate change policies, few of which appear to have any environmental impact but promise substantial economic impact on Canadians. The only fact you need to attack federal government climate change policy is that the top polluters in the world, including (in order of the amount of CO2 they generate) is China, the United States, India and Russia refuse to fully sign on to any climate change treaty. Canada is fairly far down the pollution list, far enough that it begs the question what effect any climate change strategies have in Canada if the top four polluters continue to pollute? For example, in 2015 China emitted 36,061,710 kilotons of fossil fuel CO2, while in the same year Canada emitted half a million kilotons. In my opinion, even if Canada eliminated every kiloton of CO2 emission, it would make no difference compared to China’s millions and millions and millions of kilotons ( “CO2 time series 1990-2015 per region/country” Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency ). Then add in the U.S., India and Russia.

Some readers may agree with the statements above, or disagree, which is their right. But editorial staff at newspapers across the country also have a right to their opinion, which is always clearly marked as such in their publications.

But probably the most important point to make in the importance of the journalism of opinion is that all governments, even provincial and federal Canadian ones, make mistakes and are certainly not above criticism.

Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.

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