Letter from the Editor: Why a paper's opinion section is necessary

The State Press' editor-in-chief writes about the role of opinion pieces within a paper and its audience

Here at The State Press, we are constantly thinking about how we can improve our coverage across the board and better serve our audience.

While the digital age has in some ways positively affected how we consume and share our news, it has also brought forth damaging accusations such as the “fake news” narrative, inadvertently skewing the dynamics between news organizations and the communities they serve.

To clear confusion about the distinction between news and opinion content, we aim to be transparent and forthcoming about how we operate our newsroom, make decisions and attempt to fulfill our journalistic purpose.

A paper’s opinion section has a long-running history of being a hub for vibrant discussion, arguments and — when appropriate — humor. Much like other news organizations, The State Press’ opinion section, often referred to as “editorial,” is viewed internally and externally as separate from the news section.

The news is reported factually and without bias or insertion of reporter commentary. Opinion pieces give our columnists and readers the opportunity to respond to or criticize each other’s differing viewpoints — both of which are critical in fostering an ongoing and productive dialogue, generating new ideas or encouraging one to take a specific action.

Aside from this, our opinion section also allows for the ASU community to criticize The State Press’ coverage in news and editorial.

Rather than misdirecting hateful comments to our staff columnists or opinion editor, we encourage thoughtful critiques in all forms, from phone calls to social media messages. We understand that there are legitimate areas of growth where we can improve our coverage and how we go about achieving it. Feedback from our audience is critical in this respect.

The State Press is not and should not be singularly open to those studying journalism — any and all students are welcome to apply to join our staff or submit a letter to the editor, and faculty, staff and alumni are also invited to submit letters for publication. 

The importance of having a full spectrum of different voices in our publication’s opinion section is necessary for a better understanding of how other members within our ASU community experience a variety of issues. 

Differing opinions are OK. In a University composed of more than 100,000 students, opposing outlooks and perspectives are expected.

The work published on our website is never intended to encourage prejudice or bigotry. And as an institution with a vested interest in serving the community, we never try to promote any type of hateful rhetoric. However, what constitutes as a responsible or moral opinion will vary depending on the values of our readers.

Staff-written columns or letters to the editor are not reflective of The State Press or its editors, nor do they affect how much coverage a specific topic or individual gets. This separation is upheld internally within our newsroom in order to protect and honor the integrity and independence of the two departments.

Anything run under the opinion section undergoes the same rigorous and meticulous editing process as all of our site’s content. These pieces are edited (at minimum) by our opinion editor, one of our online managing editors and a digital editor before being published.

During each revision, the column is edited for grammar and AP style and fact-checked, ensuring that our opinion desk content is held to the same level of accuracy as our news section. Editors uphold the voice of the columnist or reporter and refrain from imposing their own beliefs into the writing of others.

While we cannot speak for other publications, each of our opinion columns is labeled accordingly as opinion in the headline with an added disclaimer at the end of the piece. These labels help our readers distinguish our news from our editorial and vice versa. 

We apologize for any confusion stemming from inconsistency in social media posts lacking additional disclaimers. Our policy is to clearly mark editorial content as such, however, we feel that the content itself stands clearly as a work of opinion due to the aforementioned markers.

At the end of the day, we’re here as journalists because we’re focused on upholding our mission and doing our jobs: ethically serving, provoking and challenging a large and changing University audience. 

Opinion columns, op-eds, editorials and letters to the editor are just other ways we can better serve our community, and we encourage you to join the conversation.


Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

Kimberly Rapanut is the online editor-in-chief of The State Press for the 2019-20 academic year. You can reach her at Kimberly.Rapanut@asu.edu and @kimrapanut on Twitter.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter. 


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