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Volume 68, Issue 98 , Tuesday, February 18, 2003


Opinions often not objective

Shaun Salnave
Opinion Editor

I donit often do this -- talk about my section. I mean, itis a little too self-referential for my style of doing things, but I feel itis somewhat necessary since a lot of you seem to be having problems with a fairly basic concept.

This is the Opinion section. Youill note, if youire clever (or not brain-dead), that the name of the section (Opinion) indicates a certain lack of impartiality in its contents. These contents, what we in the newspaper industry like to call "columns," contain their authorsi beliefs (opinions) on various subjects.

They may also contain facts in support of these beliefs, but, on the whole, theyire made up of opinions. Sometimes, they contain peopleis interpretations of facts. These interpretations are made based on each personis (can you guess?) opinions. Thatis where we got the name for the section.

Now, a number of you donit seem to grasp that thereill be a certain bias on page 3 and the pages that follow it. If you donit want that bias, I would personally recommend the section that starts on page 1, labeled "News."

Also, Sports (pages 8 through 11) is fairly low on bias, being mainly reportage about various sporting events. (Be warned, though, that opinion does make its way into Sports in the form of what is called "Cougar Pause." And the writers do occasionally show that theyire UH fans, but youill have to forgive that. Try just to read the nice numbers.)

Avoid Entertainment (page 12 on) entirely: Much of that is quite subjective.

Of course, if youire like most people, youire only really bothered by opinion in the newspaper when it fits one of two categories: When you object to it, or when you donit agree with it.

I get numerous letters daily (well, actually, theyire e-mails; Iive received only two real-on-paper letters so far this semester) painting me every variety of socialist, Republican, tyrant, censor, peacenik and so on. Those who donit imply that Iill never print their opinion (which usually isnit very different from at least one regular columnistis) demand that I cease printing something they vehemently disagree with.

Honestly, the demands for censorship entertain me most. The whole editor-baiting thing lost its charm a couple of years ago when I was Opinion editor the first time. Itis pretty rare that I wonit print something, as long as it isnit libelous and I can understand what the author meant to say well enough to render it into proper English (a great many of you have an atrocious way with words).

Asking that I stop printing something, though, always brings a smile to my face. The reasons given vary, but the real reason for the demand is always the same: Someone disagrees with what a columnist said.

"Itis irresponsible of the Cougar to print that," we hear. "Itis treasonous." (Funny; I always thought exercising freedom of speech to be rather patriotic.) "Itis misleading; itis racist; itis offensive."

Itis opinion, folks. Get over it.

Frankly, thereis little I like better than a lot of letters greeting me when I arrive at The Daily Cougar in the afternoon. It means someone in the section is doing something right (and I mean that in the strictest non-partisan sense): expressing an opinion to those who disagree with him or her, trying to sway the rest of the world around to his or her belief.

I donit necessarily mean that I prefer columns that generate this sort of mail. Not everything written in the section needs people to disagree with it. Not everything people disagree with needs to shock them.

Still, if youire shocked when you read the Opinion section, thatis not a bad thing (within reason, of course; hate speech is a bad thing).

Many of you have got the proper response down, too: letters to the editor and guest columns. Your letter or column, though, should express your own opinion, not attack someone elseis.

Salnave, a senior creative writing and history major, can be reached at


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