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Opinion writing teaches students to write real persuasive commentary

Friday, October 31, 2008 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:20 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dear Reader:

OK.  I admit it.  My journalism students are biased, outspoken and openly opinionated.

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They'd better be.  Mine is the one class in the Missouri School of Journalism where that will earn you an "A".   And for the next few weeks, thousands of people across Missouri get to tally up my grade book.

As you have undoubtedly heard, the Missouri School of Journalism insists that its students learn by doing — a process called "The Missouri Method." Critics and costs be damned, it is the best method ever devised of stoking the fires of a free press.

This fall I teach editorial writing, which gives me license to use opinionated terms like that.  I am, after all, trying to do the near-impossible. I have to get 18 of the J-School's finest to violate journalism's revered Second Commandment:  Thou Shalt Not Take Sides.

I have the World Wide Web advantage on Walter Williams and my other predecessors in this task.  I had my students dip their toes into the opinion pool of the MyFox-STL blogging system in St. Louis.  The Internet is both a domain of endless commentary but also a medium of  interactive criticism.  The students are learning to live with their opinions in the face of 30 to 40 often nasty online responses.

In so many pixels, they came to realize how hard it is to maintain the First ("Tell The Truth") and Third ("Be Fair") commandments while ignoring that middle rule about involvement.

As much as I love exploring the Web, I know that traditional dead-tree newspapers are still quite alive and still quite powerful purveyors of news and opinion.  So with the help of Doug Crews at the Missouri Newspaper Association, papers across the social and political spectrum of the Show Me State are letting my young editorialists find their voices in black and white.

Editors and publishers at 18 papers agreed to pair with a student, give that student a topic to ponder and then to coach them as they developed a persuasive commentary focused on that particular community.

Nate Birt's take on the gubernatorial race ran in the Springfield News-Leader Tuesday and immediately sparked a hot online debate.  Leslie Grissum had the added pressure of writing for her hometown paper - the Boonville Daily News.  Missy Boyer found out what it is like to be a staff opinion writer - she maintained the liberal stand of The Odessan despite her own conservative leanings.

Other pre- and post-election commentaries from Tigers will hit the presses at the Gasconade County Republican, the Hannibal Courier-Post, the Bethany Republican-Clipper, the Waynesville Daily Guide, the Lake Gazette, the Northeast News, the Cedar County Republican, the Newton County News, the Boone County Journal, the Independence Examiner, the Centralia Fireside Guard, the Sweet Springs Herald, the Sedalia Democrat and the Washington Missourian.  Some will be traditional editorials that reflect the opinions of the publisher, others will be signed columns that explain the student's own views.  But no two will be alike.

That's a lot of opinion.   But better yet, it's a lot of real opinion.


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Comments

Ayn Rand October 31, 2008 | 11:29 a.m.

"Opinion writing teaches students to write real persuasive commentary"

Don Ranly, please come out of retirement. It's amazing that an editor didn't catch this.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 31, 2008 | 12:35 p.m.

It is amazing Ayn Rand that you can answer and critique all of these different things but you cannot answer my own question of "what is a true disability".

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand October 31, 2008 | 1:26 p.m.

Chuck, most 44-year-old men are at work right now.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 31, 2008 | 2:41 p.m.

Ayn Rand for your information I was just at work volunteering my time for those worse off than I am which rewards me in things far beyond a monetary value as I volunteer helping those worse off than I am on a daily basis.

What have you done today to actually help somebody worse off than you are?.

It is amazing Ayn Rand that you can answer and critique all of these different things but you cannot answer my own question of "what is a true disability".

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand October 31, 2008 | 3:44 p.m.

If you are capable of volunteering, you are capable of putting in 40 hours at a job. If you think that even a severe disability excuses one from work, just look at Stephen Hawking.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 31, 2008 | 4:10 p.m.

Ayn Rand you keep showing how little you know about those who have psychological disabilities by your continual ranting on the subject. Also by your total failure to answer my repeated question.

Medications are not always the answers and all psychological disabilities are different for different people. This is a medical fact any licensed Psychiatrist will affirm.

Also not all employers want to hire those with psychological problems either which is another reason many disabled citizens with psychological difficulties cannot find meaningful work that pays enough to be able to afford their needed expenses.

For somebody such as yourself to come here claiming you are disabled which you have before,you really do not know much about the disabled community,it's needs,the various levels of disabilities people can have nor much else with the issue.

once again Ayn Rand what is a true disability?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand October 31, 2008 | 4:37 p.m.

Chuck, no matter what answer I give you, you will say that you're not satisfied. So why should I bother? I've cited numerous examples, from a MO Supreme Court judge to a everyday CPA, who have not let their physical or mental conditions stand in the way of holding down full-time jobs. Go and do likewise.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 31, 2008 | 4:55 p.m.

Poor Ayn Rand you still cannot answer my question openly,concisely and present a real good answer to this simple question to a phrase that yourself posted here and back up.

One more time for clarity here Ayn Rand "What is a true disability"? Please explain in detail what you mean by those two little words in a concise presentation.

Too bad you wont use your real name instead of hiding behind some dead person's one.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand October 31, 2008 | 5:21 p.m.

Poor Charles. How else will you get that little house and garden you talk about?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 31, 2008 | 5:38 p.m.

Poor pathetic Ayn Rand who cannot answer one simple question by a precise presentation covering two little words that obviously you truly have no clue what they really mean.

One more time for clarity here Ayn Rand "What is a true disability"? Please explain in detail what you mean by those two little words in a concise presentation.

(Report Comment)

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