The necessity of (good) commentary

Jake Loel, Commentary Editor

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What is commentary? Is it simply one’s opinion in written form? Or is it an exploration of a subject, trying to put forward the truth of a difficult question while taking into account the subject in its entirety?

If the former is correct, there is no longer a need for a commentary section in The University News, or any newspaper. Putting forward an opinion can be done quickly, easily and oftentimes anonymously on social media.

However, if the latter is correct, commentary sections are important for every community, perhaps even vital in a democratic society.

But only when done correctly.

We at The University News Commentary desk have done our best to write about things that particularly concern University of Dallas students: professors’ accomplishments, new movements within the Diocese of Dallas, influential Cistercians and more.

There is always a temptation when writing commentary to take the easy road. One can comment on anything without much research, or with the research of only one Google search.

It becomes evident, however, that the writers of the best commentary pieces are those who have talked to affected members of the community and who have gone to observe a specific subject, be it a building, speaker or group, before writing the piece.

If one does not research their subject, or researches it poorly, it becomes nothing more than a misinformed rant based on hearsay and presumptions. This not only is a waste of time to everyone who reads it, but it is also damaging to democracy and to a learning community.

All that a non-researched commentary article does is spread misinformation, which, in turn, promotes ignorance at best and hostility between different members of communities at worst.

Another issue that writers face is writing passionately. It is necessary for the journalist, even the part-time, starving college journalist, to write with passion. It inspires him to keep writing, to keep searching for the truth and to have pride in his work.

But misplaced passion — probably stemming from bad commentary in the first place — ruins a journalist.  Believing too much in a cause will lead the journalist to rant, and to only look for sources that support his own opinions (if he looks for sources at all).

While I sympathize with the journalist who has morals, I cannot support the writer whose strongly held beliefs (outside of morals) turn his article into a rant. Even those with strong morals are obligated to look at facts and present them in a commentary article.

Commentary must be informed and fair.

I believe that the majority of articles in the commentary section this year were fair and sufficiently researched. In the future, however, I would like to see Commentary focus on things that are more impactful for The University News readership, since it is these topics that the University News writer is most familiar with.

Presidential candidates in the United States, for example, are a topic many University News readers are fascinated by and interested in. However, commentary writers would do better to focus on happenings around campus than to constantly write about politics, because they understand what is happening on campus better than they understand what is going on with voters in Iowa or Guam.

This is not to say that UD students don’t understand politics; it is to say that they understand the inner-workings of campus happenings better than they understand the inner-workings of political questions, and thus are more qualified to do on-site, in-depth research on campus than they are to do in-depth research of political candidates in Washington, D.C.

Though one year as the commentary section editor does not make one an expert of writing or opinions, my experiences have shown me that commentary is vital, but only when it presents clear facts and deep-thinking opinions.

I only hope that the commentary pieces found in these pages are more influential for people than a post on social media or a clickbait article.

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