Columns / Discourse / October 26, 2016

Reflections from conference: opinions matter

Coming back from a journalism conference (God, I’ve made it) in Washington D.C. this past weekend, I was full of fresh ideas and pride for being a part of student media. If I’m being honest with you, this was never where I thought I would be in college Ñ Skyping with Edward Snowden in a ballroom filled with young journalists from all over the country. But, here I wasÑ and enjoying it.

The weekend was full of staring proudly at monuments, but mostly, it was full of journalism. I shuffled from fancy hotel conference room to more fancy hotel conference rooms and was informed about how to be the best student journalist I could be. A highlight of the conference was the guest speaker, Bob Woodward, who came to lecture about, among other things, the media’s role in politics.

Woodward was one of the two journalists who broke the Watergate scandal and continued to have an influential career in journalism. Watching him on the stage gave me, and I’m sure many others, a sense of hope in the power that journalism can have in society. Woodward then turned his time over to questions.

One student, a young woman, asked Woodward if he thought the medium of print journalism will one day have stop having influence in society.

He paused for a second, and we all braced ourselves for the inevitable answer that we had been hearing from journalism professors and politicians alike: “Print journalism is a dying form of media.”

Instead, Woodward gave a very old man-like chuckle, and shook his head. He explained that he didn’t think that print journalism would ever truly die. He made the point that print journalism has been around for so long, it is rooted in our society that newspapers and other forms of print have influence in what we do and what we think. It was his opinion that print journalism, no matter what other forms of media come about, will not falter in the impression it leaves on society.

His remarks made me think about our own student newspaper. Of course, he was referring mostly to hard news stories and how they influence how society feels about different topics, but I believe that opinion columns have just as much a role in influencing society as news does. It all comes down to this: opinion columns don’t just give information, they allow for a conversation to be had between the writer and the reader. Discourse, the title of our opinion section, stems from the conversation that columnists put into the paper through their columns. News can show society what is going on, but opinions can influence people to think a certain way.

I understand that this sounds like a shameless plug, or an extremely long ad to “Write for discourse!” but I mostly want to make it known how extremely important print journalism is, and how opinions are a large part of it. We all have something to say, and we all have something that we want to change about our society. Don’t lose faith in the news as a source to get your voice out Ñ let your opinions be heard. Opinions change minds and can start a campus-wide discourse. There are things going on that we need to be talking aboutÑ what do you want to be on Knox’s mind? Let us know. Submit to discourse by emailing lgchamberlin@knox.edu.

Lillie Chamberlin, Discourse Editor

Tags:  Bob Woodward column discourse Edward Snowden journalism Matter opinions

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