As teachers prepare their students for the upcoming state and local elections, as well as for the 2012 Presidential Election, it is important to teach the differences between fact and opinion, persuasive techniques, sourcing, and effective opinion writing – where arguments are supported by statistics, details, and examples.
Editorials in newspapers are opinions about all sorts of subjects written in hope of swaying readers to a certain point of view. Many editorials encourage actions that the newspaper believes will benefit the community or the nation. For example, they may recommend a vote in favor of a school tax or a certain candidate for president. They may praise a firefighter for heroism or discuss issues such as gun control or school dress codes.
Editorials usually are printed on the editorial page to help readers identify them from other stories. The Op-Ed page, for opinions and editorials, is positioned next to the editorial page. It contains opinion pieces that present positions that may be different from those taken by the editor.
Like all journalists, editorial writers need to present facts and reasons for opinions. Often, humor can be an effective tool to persuade a reader. One of the most popular kinds of editorials is the editorial cartoon, a drawing that pokes fun at someone or something currently in the news. A good political cartoon can say in one drawing what an editorial might take 1,000 words to say—and it can make us laugh in the process.
Many newspapers have columnists who are experts in certain areas or writers whose opinions are respected. Most newspapers try to balance their editorial pages with columnists who have different points of view.
Newspapers also publish letters from readers on the editorial page. This is how citizens get to express their views about current events. Letters to the editor also give readers a chance to praise or criticize the paper’s news coverage.
Opinions are not limited to the editorial pages. They can appear in other parts of the paper, such as sports, movie reviews and even the comics.
Activity #1: Analyze!
Select an editorial from any newspaper. Create a chart to analyze the editorial using the following component headings: Present position, Facts to support the position, Opposing position, Facts to support opposing position, Challenge opposing position, Appeal to the reader. Fill in the chart to see how the writer addresses the components of the editorial.
Activity #2: Be persuasive!
Select an editorial that interests you. Examine the individual words and phrases the editorial writer uses to persuade the reader. Create a chart where you list all of the persuasive words used. Next to that word write a more neutral word to replace the persuasive word.
Activity #3: Check it out!
Select and read an editorial that interests you. Examine the facts the writer presents in the editorial. How could you check the facts to see if they are accurate? List the facts on a chart. Next to each fact, write a source or an individual you could consult to verify the information.