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If you put your opinion in print, make it count

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As I gathered and read hundreds of different college newspapers that were on display at the College Media Advisors Convention (CMA)  in New York over spring break, I found an unusually high number of opinion articles on lame topics like over-priced grilled cheese and typical tuition complaints. When did we become so boring, I wondered?

So, with the Voice’s First Amendment Free Food Festival just a little more than a month away, and in the spirit of the First Amendment itself, I present to you the Oppys, the best and worst of the college newspaper opinion writing to be found at the CMA.

Winner of the 2010 Most Boring Topic Oppy goes to Thiago Estevam from Robert Morris University’s The Sentry.  Estevam’s topic: whether or not to drive in the snow. Okay, so we had a blustery winter, Sentry, but was winter driving the best you could do?

Opinion pieces aren’t icebreakers! Don’t talk about the weather.

Granted, Estevam’s piece was as well written as it could be considering it tried to take a stand on the weather, but was there really nothing else to cover?

Runner up in the Most Boring Topic category goes to the grilled cheese article by Brennon Clar of North Idaho College’s The Sentinel. Our newsroom made a collective sigh when we realized you evaluated the cost of bread and cheese but never bothered to factor in the cost of labor; consumer math, anyone?

Opinions that are really just personal anecdotes were well represented this year, and so we give the Oppy for Lamest Personal Anecdote to Lyndon State College’s The Critic article entitled “First time blood donor; second coming up,” by Sebastian C. Lury. I can sum this article up in less than 15 words: squeezed a ball; got a needle in my arm; felt good about myself.

We do give Lury props though, for trying to appeal to his college audience by connecting donating blood with losing his virginity; he opens the article with “They say you never forget your first time and I doubt I will forget mine.”

A close cousin of the personal anecdote is what I’ve come to think of as the Wikipedia opinion. Lury manages to pull this off on top of his personal anedote when he wanders off for several paragraphs to give you a series of fun facts about who blood donation can help and when the chance to donate will come again.  On a bad day the Wiki-ops turn into PR pieces, on a good day you just think to yourself: why?

This year’s Oppy for the Most Wiki-Like Opinion also comes from The Critic. The article by Kristen A. Oberle is called “SAD-Seasonal Affective Disorder.” In it Oberle devotes an entire half page to the symptoms and treatments of SAD. The topic says it all. Hey, Kristen Oberle, do these treatments work for opinion articles? Because this piece is sad.

Things weren’t all bad, however. This year’s Top Op Hall of Fame inductee is The Villanovan of Villanova University. They had four glorious pages of splendid opinions. Why were they so great? They were witty, they were interesting. Simply put, the Villanovan’s opinions were interesting, addressed a broad audience and were fun to read.

In Joey Bagnasco’s “War of words rages on campus” about desk graffiti he says “I wouldn’t want to be associated with someone who thinks they are a riot because they furtively (and quite poorly) illustrated a male member on a library carrel.”

Bagnasco tackles an issue that seems somewhat juvenile, but his writing is strong, smart, witty and concise. His colleague at the Villanovan, Matilda Swartz writes about internships in her article “The agony of internships” saying “This summer I will not end up in France, skipping around the Avenue Montaigne…more likely I may end up interning somewhere in the United States, doing coffee runs and befriending the copy machine.”

Opinion articles may be a student’s only chance to publish a hard stance on a controversial issue. As Michael Koretzky, advisor to Florida Atlantic University’s University Press frequently reminded students at the CMA, “You have the rest of your life to be boring!”

Sara Gatling served as Editor in Chief for The VOICE from fall 2009 to spring 2010. She oversaw and wrote some of The VOICE's most award-winning content. She has transferred to Columbia University.

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