Opinion columns

Have you ever wanted to share your opinion with the world? Opinion columnists work for newspapers and share their expert insight into current affairs. Cool job, right? Opinion columns are worth exploring throughout your language and literature course, as you may come across one in a Paper 1 exam, or may decide to explore the columns of a columnist in your individual oral as a non-literary body of work.  

  1. Read the model column below which was written by Maureen Dowd for the New York Times.  Where do you see opinion? What does opinion look like? Try to put your finger on the words and phrases that express Maureen Dowd's opinion. 

  2. 'The Lady and the Trump' by Marueen Dowd
  3. Turn and discuss these questions with the person sitting besides you. In what ways is this column by Maureen Dowd similar to or different from:
    • a political commentary?
    • a news article?
    • a blog post
    • an essay?
    • a speech
    • a letter to the editor
    • a feature article?

  4. Do an online search to clarify your answers to the previous questions. As a class, discuss what you think are the defining features of opinion columns.

  5. Study how the key features of opinion columns are defined below. How are these similar to or different from the features that you discussed?

  6. Feature Example
    Anecdote: An anecdote is a short, personal story that captures a truth about life. Columnists use the first-person 'I' and tell an anecdote from their own life that relates to current affairs. 

    "I’ve been riveted all week by the spectacle of the most famous blond phenom on the planet, a child isolated and miserable living inside a national landmark, lashing out and spiralling into self-destructive acts." It's not clear if Dowd is writing about watching The Crown or Donal Trump.

    Humour: Columnists are often looking for a laugh, as they expose the irony of current affairs. Humour, wit, satire or a tongue-in-cheek tone are often the ways columnist construct a 'voice' or tone.  “But eventually I had to turn off the new season of “The Crown,” focusing on Princess Diana, and drag my attention back to Donald Trump, who is trashing this place before checking out like he’s Axl Rose at a Four Seasons.” This comparison is quite funny, just as the last lines of the column comment on Donald Trump's dream to date Lady Di, to which Dowd adds: "Dream on, Donald."
    Opinion: At the heart of a column is a clear, informed and well-argued opinion, which is often about a newsworthy event or person. Some statements clearly express an opinion,  such as “this country is shot to hell and running on empty”, or "It’s outrageous that Congress left town for the holidays this weekend without passing Covid relief."
    Newsworthy and topical: Opinion columns often refer to newsworthy events. What deems a story 'newsworthy'? Usually they are relevant to readers, extraordinary by nature or negative. Dowd comments on Trump's "midnight manoeuvres like ending several emergency lending programs that could buoy the economy and attempting to ravage Alaska’s wildlife refuge." These are actual news stories that appeared around the time of publishing her column. 
    Argument and evidence: Columnists appeal to logic and provide evidence to support their argument. Good evidence usually comes in the form of facts, research and hard numbers.    

    “Trump continued embarrassing himself and the nation when he finally emerged, after sulking in his tent for days, and asserted that he had won the election. [...] But the Michigan lawmakers came out of the White House and said they would “follow the normal process” that has Joe Biden ahead even as the governor of Georgia certified the results there for Biden."

  7. Find a columnist to explore in depth as a Body of Work (BOW). Present an article or column from your columnist to your classmates and comment on why the writer writes, how the writer tends to write and how the writer's columns are received. Here are a few columnists worth exploring. 

Assessment

Are you thinking about exploring a columnist for your individual oral? Where do you see evidence of a particular global issue in several columns by the columnist? How does the columnist use language to present that issue?

Last modified: Tuesday, 1 December 2020, 2:23 PM