Please Stop Writing Ridiculous Opinion Articles

Kash Jain ’24

Opinion Editor

Nothing in this piece is meant to disparage the contributions of writers to the Tripod ’s Opinion section.

This article is a break from my usual content and style of writing, but dear reader, I have had it.

Our nation faces a journalism crisis. Budgetary issues, the dominance of digital content and poor incentives have led to the decline of a once-great institution. This decline has been especially visible in the opinion sections of major papers across the nation, many of which have turned away from offering unique, interesting or insightful thoughts in favor of running nonsense.

The New York Times, in particular, has faced significant criticism over its opinion pieces. This has grown so significant that an account on X called “ New York Times Pitchbot” (not actually a bot) has built a following of over 250,000 followers by satirizing the Times ’s opinion section. Of course, such attitudes are not representative of the average American, who probably does not regularly read opinion pieces and has not heard the phrase “Dems In Disarray.” The owner of the Pitchbot account is a middle-aged math professor, but those who see the humor in his content largely belong to the political class, with a few members of the small but loyal contingent of cover-to-cover newspaper readers across the nation (thank you!). His point, however, rings true: media outlets continuously run opinion pieces that are just plain bad.

There are three categories that I would place such pieces into. First is the “pointless” bucket, arguments or topics that no person could possibly care about. During the first week of 2024, the New York Times published a 5,000-word opinion piece speculating that Taylor Swift was secretly gay. Imagine my shock, dear reader, at seeing such a piece. Why would someone spend so much time writing a piece that ridiculous? Why would any publication run such an absurd waste of words?

Then, there are the articles that make an argument for the sake of making an argument. They take an outrageous stance to play the devil’s advocate, to advance genuine hate or to cause controversy. Examples include pieces arguing that Stephen Miller is a “necessity” (even Mike Feighan would laugh) and claiming that Kamala Harris is not a natural-born citizen and is thus ineligible to be vice president (how did you graduate law school?). There is merit in discussing bad ideas, so there could be value in examining the topics in this category, but these authors choose to embrace the bad rather than refute it.

The third, most egregious category, is the set of articles by pundits who seem insistent on contorting or outright ignoring reality to support their claim. “Dems In Disarray!” pieces that interpret every political event as bad for Democrats fall here, as does claiming that the US pulling out of NATO would end the Ukraine war. This also includes the 2018 piece “Calm Down. Roe v. Wade Isn’t Going Anywhere” which claimed that Democrats were creating “hysteria” by voicing concern about the potential fate of abortion rights and that Clarence Thomas was the only judge who would vote to overturn Roe. Making an unpopular argument is fair, but misconstruing things to support a questionable narrative is not. I do not profess to know more than career professionals who have spent decades learning and writing about what they discuss, but sometimes people should just know better.

Not all opinion pieces printed in major papers are of such quality — far from it — but these egregious pieces sully a section with so much potential. Opinion writers help shape how some of the most important issues are understood and discussed. If someone wants to know what an event means, why and how it matters, opinion can offer that. Instead, many writers have slunk away from that duty.

Opinion pieces need to be written by those with strong positions and the ability to articulate why they believe what they do, but they also need to consider what is of value to their audiences. The opinion section has become a channel where writers speak only to politicos and use their pens to blast the positions that they hold with little consideration for what their role can be.

Nobody should be forced to express opinions that they do not hold or discuss topics that they are not interested in. However, the opinion section has a responsibility. We live in a world where fear, animus and uncertainty about how to fix things have a strong grip. The opinion section can help provide clarity and direction. We can help people make sense of the chaos surrounding us, and we can help return power to those who feel that they have been stripped of it.

I have been guilty of some of what I criticize, sometimes writing about issues that may not be as important to college students in Connecticut or failing to address contrasting viewpoints. However, I do try to highlight things that I think people should know about, and offer perspective by leaning on our past.

The media has always been a pillar of our nation, and its power and influence are still great. That is true for the opinion section, which can help inform people and faithfully discuss pressing issues. National media and all of us who write and run these pieces must do what we can to serve that purpose.

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