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Aysha Taryam: When Opinions Break, They Remain Broken
November 14, 2018
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At the sound of any major crisis, conflict or trending hashtag columnists and analysts race to give their opinions and critiques in an urgency to be the first to have tackled an issue
It is a fast-paced world, this world of news. A world where speed and brevity have out-ranked what are the core values of journalism, those elusive concepts of credibility, impartiality and accountability. The shift has happened, the reader has become the consumer, the information-seeker a mere number, a statistic of subscribers, followers and sharers. Burning through information as fast as it can be churned out, the speed with which media outlets can shovel this commodity into the firepits of the cyber world became the only factor guaranteeing an organization’s continuation, its survival. With that came a barrage of compromises, the profession yielded to the pressures of mass-consumption and the face of journalism was altered, in many cases disfigured by the need to cater to endless trends and the passing whims of the cyber-masses.

News was just the start, for compromises have a rather healthy reproductive system and before one begins to adapt to the new order of things more would have been made. In this noble profession it is no longer enough to break news first, it has become essential to break opinions first too. At the sound of any major crisis, conflict or trending hashtag columnists and analysts race to give their opinions and critiques in an urgency to be the first to have tackled an issue, and while facts and figures are able to withstand the sheer speed required, opinions falter and at times disintegrate.

As in most cases with news stories, information tends to come in waves, consequences follow actions and if opinions are made hastily then writers are forgoing some essential facets of the topic, not all factors will be evaluated rendering opinion pieces obsolete once additional facts on the issue emerge. Opinions must not be reactionary, they are built with research and intricately crafted by keen observation. Timeliness is essential but in order for opinions to be meaningful and poignant we must regard them as works of art inspired by the events of the world. Art requires adequate time, to ponder, and space, to be put between the subject matter and the writer in order for opinions to remain untainted by the raucous, when opinion writers allow themselves this they avoid breaking the phantom limbs of their argument jumping to conclusions. 

There exist many books in publication that are collections of writers’ opinions and articles on different subject matters, such as Charles Dickens’s journalistic writings written in the 1850s and George Orwell’s opinions on the Second World War in the 1940s, both of which have withstood the test of time because they were thorough and touched on wider elements with regard to the topics of that era. A prematurely published opinion often results in one-dimensional pieces that will have no resonance with the passing of time. Yes, time is of the essence and considering the super speeds that information travels at one cannot deny its power, it is a factor to take into consideration when penning a piece, but it is one of many. Urgency should not be the priority because if it is then writers of opinions are doing both themselves and their readers a disservice by valuing publication dates over quality of analysis.

In this age filled with noise where everyone has the ability to form and share an opinion it is of utmost importance that writers practise some kind of discipline despite the pressures in order to produce pieces that stand out. It is not the fastest opinion that matters, it is the wisest, the most thorough.

The English poet Matthew Arnold said, “Journalism is literature in a hurry” for no matter how rushed the world may be it remains our duty to respect the art of this noble craft.
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