Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How to avoid embarrassing yourself in print: a guide.

I write for the Utah Valley University student paper, the UVU Review, and my editor asked me to write something satirical and/or sarcastic about how to write a good opinion piece. While flattered that he thinks I'm able to discern such things, here it is.

This will likely appear in an adjusted form in the actual paper and on the site, but I'll post it here as I sent it to my editor.


There’s a popular axiom that dictates (in a G-rated form, anyway), “Opinions are like [armpits]. Everyone has them, and they all stink.” While this is obviously not 100% true (some people have no armpits, while some armpits smell quite lovely), there lies an indisputable chunk of truth in that meme. Because this is the Opinion section, there is certainly a small sting to whenever it is said/written/told to me by my editor. What’s a boy to do?

First, it’s important to recognize that the statement is probably more untrue than it is true. Despite what I see on both MSNBC and Fox News, I think that most people, including the student body at UVU, have intelligent, reasonable, fact-based opinions. To prove myself right (something at which I am very, very good), here’s a handy list of things that the fine readers of the UVU Review can continue to do in their writings to us in order to continue my high esteem of them:

1. Ignorant people often hide behind the “Well, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.” That won’t hold. If someone tells you that the earth is flat, remind them that they are incorrect. If they state that the earth being flat is their opinion, remember that while they are welcome to their opinion, that doesn’t mean that they’re not wrong. An opinion is no excuse to ignore logic, reason, science, or fact.

2. Say things backed up by fact. If you think that Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim terrorist, find us the damn birth certificate.

3. This one’s a bit sensitive, but it’s important: just because the Bible says something doesn’t mean you can use that as empirical evidence in anything but a theological or religious debate. Same goes for the Qur’an, Book of Mormon, or your favorite Dashboard Confessional lyric.

4. Don’t be obstinate. If you think homosexuality is a “mental illness,” that may be your opinion, but you’re wrong (see #1-3, or anything the American Psychological Association has published in the last, I don’t know, 36 years).

5. Some opinions are in fact matters of taste. I have a friend that prefers The Beatles to Led Zeppelin. In my view, whether or not I agree has no bearing on whether or not his opinion is actually wrong, as both are great bands and deserve our respect.

6. Despite #5, things that sometimes appear to be matters of taste are, in fact, not. You can love the story of Twilight as much as you want, but it’s still a terrible, terrible book. And you know it.

If you see something in the paper that you love, write in and tell us! If you see something you hate, write in and tell us! We want to hear what our readers, the only people that really matter to us and our enterprise, think. Hold us accountable if we break any of the above.

For the record, we think you’re pretty great. Here’s to the fall semester!


Waif13 said...

I woke up my roommate from laughing while I read this. He didn't mind once I read it to him cause it made him laugh to. Very well written, I love your tone and voice, how you manage to be educational, slightly sardonic but never unpleasent.

Also, points 4 and 6 were my favorites. Of course.

Citizen Andy said...

Yes I like the Beatles more than Zeppelin. Thanks for the shout-out.

And thanks for ripping on Twilight. That always makes me happy.

Citizen Andy said...

Oh, and for the record, the truth of "How to avoid embarrassing yourself in print" is thus:
Do not publish anything under the name Andy Sherwin or Dave Newlin.
Instead, assume a name such as "Rusty Shackleford."