June 14, 2019

Why point of view matters when writing an op-ed

Even as many newspapers are shutting down their opinion pages–or going entirely online–here at Denterlein we see one thing editors and publications still have a strong appetite to publish: Op-ed columns with a strong and distinctive point of view.

Op-eds, originally so named because they appeared “opposite the editorial page” of print newspapers, remain a powerful platform for business professionals or organizations to leverage or promote their mission statement, project, or perspective on an issue. Because newsrooms are swarmed with opinion pieces from all angles and perspectives, provocative or contrarian viewpoints, we are seeing, are what are most likely to grab an editor’s attention and resonate with readers to keep a discussion of a newsworthy subject vibrant.

What do we mean by an op-ed that has a strong point of view? Here are three examples of op-eds we consider models of the genre, with discussion of what you can learn from them.

Giving voice to the unheard

One of 2018’s most read op-eds was a deeply vulnerable and somber piece at The Washington Post titled To the mother of the gunshot victim I couldn’t saveby trauma surgeon Jacques Mather. Suffused with narrative and heart-wrenching detail, the piece gave readers a view of the gun violence issue through the eyes of an individual whose point of view is so often missing from the national debate and political exchange.

Promoting positive change

Locally, the Boston Business Journal’s Viewpoint column allows experts to express their attitude towards specific business initiatives. Darrin Lang, co-founder of LABUR, a Boston information technology consulting firm, took to Viewpoint to share the benefits that volunteering had on his company culture. Titled, “Nonprofit partnerships can shape company culture for the better,” Darrin shares the professional, communal, and societal benefits of promoting community involvement in a company culture as well as the direct benefits to his own company: “The emotional value gained from working together on a communal cause has done great things for me and my work family. It binds people together more than operating solely on a business level does.” With the BBJ’s strong reach throughout Boston’s business community, Darrin’s sharing of his experience has undoubtedly encouraged other business leaders to reflect on how they can improve their own company’s culture through an increased commitment to volunteering.

Introducing a new (or radical) idea

When the MBTA stated it was going to raise its fares for public transit riders, at-large Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu offered a radically alternative idea: Make the T free. In her op-ed, “Forget fare hikes – make the T free,” Wu laid out the financial, environmental, and economic benefits of making public transit accessible and equitable for an entire state. It ignited a whole new dialogue about how Greater Boston should value and fund transportation. Councilor Wu’s column also underscored how she was not scared of proposing a bold solutions to fix systemic problems.

What these three examples all have in common is that the stronger the point of view, the more it provokes readers to consider or reconsider what they think about an issue and why. Besides a strong perspective, the best op-eds often provide a detail, anecdote, or statistic that enlightens readers and gets them to see an issue in a new way. When writers are willing to commit to a strong voice and point of view, they get fresh perspectives into the public realm, win hearts and minds to drive change, and grow as “thought leaders” in their fields.

Do you have an op-ed you think should be on this list? Share it with us on Twitter, tagging @denterlein so we’ll be sure to see it!

By Yaira Matos and Alex Boonstra