Internet opinions: A double-edged sword

A woman reads the New York Times online. An 'old newspaper logo' lends credibility to online opinion

Last month, I asked Kate Riley, editorial page editor of the Seattle Times, whether the internet was destroying opinion journalism. She wrote that her newspaper was adapting to the brave new online world and continuing to provide a forum for her readers to view and debate the issues of the day.

I shared her response with syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, a former president of the Association of Opinion Journalists. Here's what she had to say:

Is the Internet killing opinion journalism? Not at all. It provides a vast forum for lots more of it. But it's made the search for high-quality opinion writing more difficult. By "high quality" I mean opinion that adheres to what we regard as journalistic standards. They include a certain loyalty to facts and logic - and transparency. Revealing the writer's real identity helps readers understand where the opinion is coming from.

So what do you do about a Jofi Joseph, the National Security Council staff member caught tweeting snarky opinions of his superiors under the nom de plume @NatSecWonk. Here was someone in a position to judge the talents of national security leaders, but how could his followers assess his credibility, since he hid behind a shield of anonymity? For all anyone knew, he could have been a college kid in Australia, fantasizing off an issue of the Economist.

As Kate notes, so-called traditional (print) media often put much more online these days than on paper. I see them as ideal providers of online opinion journalism: That old newspaper logo at the top of the website tells reader that the opinions to follow have been curated for strength of argument, quality of writing, etc. The unlimited "page space" on the Internet, meanwhile, allows for greater quantity and variety.

And what may save the civic culture from online chaos is the insistence by the Seattle Times and other reputable news sites to provide safe places for readers to hash out their disagreements without fear of attack by anonymous "trolls" or other online creeps.

In future posts, I'll share more views about the future of opinion journalism from those in the field.



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  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    'Jofi Johnson' is characterized as a whistle blower or ingrate? There is a fine line when an employee is in the mix. Most of us just ad opinion as third parties responding to news articles written by journalists or bloggers who generally have a set opinion (researched?) or an axe to grind anyway. Politics is fair game as feel strongly that the US public has been abused badly for the last decade!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Mindless drivel isn't that hard to identify...

    Critical thinking, the essential tool for making sense out of anything that is opinion, depends very little on logos or even knowing who is expressing the opinion. Dependence on visual cues and writer labels for validating or disqualifying someone's expressed opinion would appear to be weak thinking at best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Then again, the broad topic "opinion" today has taken on more of the qualities and trademarks of entertainment and pure propaganda than worthwhile analysis and in depth thought. Now those things, entertainment and propaganda, are definitely enhanced through identification with "trusted" logos and "known" pontificators…

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Adam Gopnik's column last week prompted by the Hollande affair is about the best I have read this year to date:

    Whereas Twitter's '144 characters or less' simply appalls as a serious communication medium.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    An illustration of how Republican muck raker, Mike Rogers, attempts to demonize - on no evidence, of course (best not to confuse a Republican with facts): "I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an agent in Moscow," Rep Mike Rogers told CBS's "Face the Nation" programme." Rogers, a profoundly worthless miscreant!


Comments 5 of 23


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