Why have an opinion section in a newspaper?

Posted on Feb 15 2017 - 7:59am by James Halbrook

We all know the quote, “Opinions are like…elbows. Everyone has one, and they’re all flexible.” Maybe that is not in everyone’s vernacular, but opinions are important.

We all have them, and they are ours, and we value them–just like our elbows. Having said that, it is important to realize that others have their own opinions and that it is imperative to respect each other’s opinions, even though we may not agree with them.

A lot of my good friends and I are on very different sides of the political spectrum, and I think it is important for personal growth and the maintenance of our opinions to hear the thoughts of others, especially those with differing opinions.

It is crucial to develop that sort of empathy, to hear someone’s opinion and be able to identify with it and understand how he or she would come to that opinion. This definitely leads to a more well-rounded worldview and allows us to better connect with other people.

Just last summer, I was with a few of my roommate’s friends discussing politics, and one guy said, “It’s interesting because we all spend time with people we’re so alike, so we become radicalized in our own views.”

This really resonated with me, and hearing those words at that point in the night was prophetic. I was blown away. He was so right, and this wisdom really blindsided me.  Ever since then, I have really tried to associate and converse with people whom I usually wouldn’t. Turns out psychology has its own name for this principle: confirmation bias.

From that and other conversations, I have learned the difference between hearing and listening, and I feel that has made a lot of difference in everyday conversation. Instead of thinking about what to say next, it is best to focus on what someone is saying and to actually listen to someone. People notice. I think the importance of a good conversation is really underrated.

That is why school newspapers like The Daily Mississippian have opinion sections. They are not there to be a doormat for anger or ranting about trivial subjects; they should be opportunities for students to foster dialogue that can benefit the entire campus community.

Those newspapers’ readers are mostly students, and because of that, they are in a prime position in students’ lives to teach the benefits of hearing other people out.

That one night really served to show me two things. One, it is imperative to listen to others and empathize. Two, you never know when you’re going to get a dose of wisdom, so keep an ear open.

James Halbrook is a sophomore chemical engineering major from Brandon.