Ah, the ops section. To me, it’s simultaneously the easiest and the most difficult section of the newspaper: easy because it takes so much less legwork than the coverage-oriented sections, and difficult because it requires exposing your inmost thoughts to an often-hostile world. Regardless of the difficulty of writing for ops, though, it is always rewarding to contribute to the section. This year in particular has seen several developments that provide evermore creative ways to contribute. These are the creation of the R’Perspective series, the pervasiveness of comics and the shift toward looser standards in opinions articles.
R’Perspective Series: Many voices working together
R’Perspective series, or collections of R’Perspectives on the same topic by multiple authors, were a major expansion of the R’Perspective genre of personalized opinions pieces that was created by the opinions editor of the 2014-2015 academic year, Jameson Adame. The first of these series was conceived of by Jessica Baker, last year’s opinions editor, who made it her pet project. Eventually, the collection was published, featuring articles by Myles Andrews-Duve, Jasmine Yamanaka, Kate Rusmiselle, Kimberly Miller and Aaron Grech on their experiences with being multiracial. Since then, the ops section has also featured a series on bullying (a thank you to Martha Delgado, Aaron Grech and Jasmine Yamanaka, for contributing) and, in this very issue, one on body image featuring Jasmine Yamanaka and Betteena Marco.
R’Perspectives have been one of the best and most important features in the opinions section because they allow a different kind of voice to arise. Rather than the implied competition of write-offs or the supplementary nature of letters to the editor, R’Perspectives are the one guaranteed way the section sees a greater diversity of stories and lessons learned from them. The R’Perspectives series, then, takes this to another level, providing diverse voices that at the same time manage to speak in unison.
Comics: An artistic boost to opinions
Comics are probably the most important way the ops section goes from being an apparent humdrum bunch of pages full of words and stock photos to a section that is vibrant and colorful, while still providing meaningful self-expression in an opinionated way. Nearly every issue features work by at least one of our talented artists; sometimes we even have entire pages devoted to this art with a purpose. From images that serve as well as any photo for accompanying an article, to the fun “Sourdoogle” serial comic by Danni Wei, there is a huge range in what the ops section sees from its artists.
Comics are a mode of expression that bring in many people who might not be comfortable with their writing, but still have a message to share. They often tackle issues that would not be touched by writers, or strengthen a writer’s point with a visual that can’t be provided by text. Artists such as Julia Krum, Jacqueline Lee, Daniel Garcia, Danni Wei, Victoria Nguyen, Matt Hong, Mai Kamel and Jake Gong have added flair, depth and variety to the ops section that would otherwise be a sea of words.
Opinions: Raising the bar on quality
The opinions section tends to be scary to new writers. There is first the problem of getting over one’s fear of expressing opinions to the world when the world is keen on disagreeing. Another obstacle has been the tendency of writers to think that the opinions section is about writing the sort of dull persuasive essays they hoped to be finished with in high school.
This year, to address this second issue, we decided to relax some of the expectations of formality on opinions articles. There are still expectations of quality and effort from writers, but no longer are ops pieces impersonal treatises on some relatively newsworthy event. If a writer feels very strongly about an issue, then they can put feeling in. If a writer feels like being sarcastic, we won’t stop them.
Not only does this policy of stylistic freedom make the opinions section less intimidating, which draws in writers who would otherwise be scared off, it allows writers to be true to their manner of writing. There are still things a writer may want to put that we can’t let fly (RIP, Oxford commas), but the ops section is definitely a lot more permissive than it has ever been. With any luck, it’ll become even more so as time passes.