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Newspapers need the reader’s voice 

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Melissa Martin  Syndicated Columnist , USA  
Melissa Martin  Syndicated Columnist , USA  

A media outlet, whether print or digital, without an opinion-editorial or Letter to the Editor section from reader responders is a media outlet source that I will not support. Any newspaper (international, national, or local) that has developed a policy to end feedback from readers or does not accept comments/opinions lacks respect for the citizens. A land of freedom values the voices of its people.

“What is an op-ed? An op-ed, short for opposite editorial, is an opinionated article submitted to a newspaper for publication and written by members of the community, not newspaper employees.” Visit www.desmoinesregister.com.

An editorial is an opinion article written by newspaper staff via an editorial board. “News will help you define events, and opinion will help you debate them,” proclaims The Wall Street Journal.

However, my column is focusing on the voice of the reader, not the journalist. But let it be known that I support both staff editorials as well.

The Guardian published its first op-ed written entirely by artificial intelligence in 2020. “The big picture: There’s been many conversations over the past few years about whether journalists and editors could one-day be replaced by machines,” according to Axios.

Opinions generated by robots for news media outlets is not my cup of tea. My reading of opinion pieces is focused on the comments and feedback of humans. Oh, no offense to robotic machines.

A 2021 article by Diana Bradley at PRWEEK interviewed Axios cofounder and CEO Jim VandeHei where he gave a ridiculous excuse as to why there will be an absence of opinion pieces on his websites. He opined, “all of us in the media can tone down the gamesmanship and tone down the noise to try to get people to focus on the things that matter — give them clarity.” Visit www.prweek.com.

Since when are the opinions of readers considered to be “noise.” Ideas, beliefs, thoughts, feedback, opinions, viewpoints, and comments are not to be considered clatter or clamor. VandeHei may consider freedom of speech as hubbub or hullabaloo, but I do not. And the words of the people do matter. And the words of editorial boards do matter.

Using misinformation as a reason to delete opinion pieces (censorship of reader feedback) is a mammoth copout. That’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, some partisan news media outlets abound with the promotion of liberal vs. conservative agendas. However, listeners and readers must be able to debate and discuss issues and use critical thinking skills to discern fact from fiction.

A 2013 article by the Pew Research Center reported that several daily newspapers reduced the amount of spaced devoted to editorials and commentary. Visit www.pewresearch.org.

Media outlets, don’t reduce our voices.

Opinion pieces generate discussion, provide pros and cons of issues, and persuade readers to take action. The solution is not to abandon commentary. The solution is news literacy. Visit free lessons from the News Literacy Project on identifying credible information and seeking out reliable sources. And learning digital media literacy is imperative.

Will other media brands follow Axios’ trampling of the voices of opinionated readers, the consumers of news? If so, an outcry from readers must ensue.

“Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” ― George Orwell

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is a syndicated opinion-editorial columnist. She lives in USA.

 

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