By Anna Ley
Comment sections catalyse controversy, conversation and often conflict. It is for this reason that they are often criticised. The Guardian’s Tauriq Moosa branded them ‘poison’, suggesting that if they are not ‘handled with care’ they should not be used at all.
Yet, it is exactly this cautious, ‘careful’ handling of one’s individual ideas and personal passions that opinion sections in our media can help to erode. Putting your perspective to paper, comment can encourage a vital self-confidence to give voice to one’s own beliefs.
Comment pieces are about much more than the column or article; their real significance lies in the shockwaves of discussion that the explosive pieces send out to its readers. Stirring debate, opinion pieces become a gateway to conversation and criticism and therefore crucially ensure that we are engaging with the content we are reading.
Without them, we are encouraged to merely absorb news; with them, we actively reflect, reason and react to the affairs we are reading about. Breaking down the passive intake of important events, opinion pieces promote personal response, a skill that we students – constantly told to be independent thinkers and source our own line of argument – can really benefit from having in our media.
Without them, we are encouraged to merely absorb news; with them we actively reflect, reason and react.
Concerns over ‘fake news’ have fostered a fear of opinion-sections in today’s media, attacking their un-factual and irrelevant role to the newspaper’s purpose of providing ‘news’. Where objective reporting is, though often necessary, robotic and lacking in feeling, opinion pieces are fiery and fervent. Rife with personal feeling, comment articles cause ricochets of reaction that pose difficult and undesirable questions. Yet they are vital questions to be asked none the less.
Comment, therefore, provides a platform for paramount issues to be presented and picked apart by everyone. The ‘dangerous’ and potentially ‘poisonous’ discussion and disagreement they create are, in many ways, the foundations of a true democracy; inviting the thoughts and opinions of every individual.
In being able to voice your personal response to the affairs the paper objectively reports, comment sections breed a confidence to beat the buffer; an important refusal to bite your tongue. As such, this type of journalism holds powerful lessons against blind conformity.
Comment advocates a confidence and a boldness to say what you’re passionate about and breaks down the buffer that society can impose on our voices. It is a buffer that the drone-like objective reporting of a white, male-dominated press house can sometimes unfortunately reinforce. Providing a place for the silenced to speak, it is an especially important space for students, a group wildly neglected in the current political landscape, to have our say.
It is a freedom, a fearlessness and a confidence that contagiously spreads to readers who see an article and form opinions of their own. The cradle of the outspoken, comment advocates an individual voice; a vital lesson to be told to all.
It is an especially important space for us students, a group wildly neglected in the current political landscape, to have our say.
In an era in which the media is attacked as the people’s ‘enemy’, it is more important now than ever for comment sections to survive. Opening up conversations and inviting perspectives beyond the publishing house, comment IS the people. Opinion pieces are a platform for the personal issues and frustrations that nibble at each of us as individuals, not as a population.
The megaphone to the people’s voice, comment is an indispensable part of the media. It is a powerful tool to teach all of us to not be afraid to speak up and shout out. Yet it is a particularly important platform for us students, a group often forgotten about and underrepresented, as a powerful voice for change.
Featured image: Chris Hunkeler via Flickr and Creative Commons