It's a question I have heard over and over during the nearly 14 years that GetReligion has been online. It's a question that I am hearing more and more often these days, as the reality of online economics shapes what we read, see and hear.
The question: Why doesn't GetReligion address journalism issues in opinion pieces, as well as in hard-news stories?
After all, major news organizations keep running more opinion pieces about major events and trends in the news, often in place of actual news coverage. Why does this keep happening?
There are several obvious reasons. First, as your GetReligionistas keep noting, opinion is cheap and hard-news reporting is expensive. All kinds of people are willing to write opinion pieces for next to nothing, while reporting requires lots of time and effort by professionals who, you know, need salaries.
Opinion pieces are also written to provoke and, most of the time, to make true believers shout "Amen!" before they pass along (click, click, click) URLs on Twitter or Facebook. You can usually tell a news organization's worldview by the number of opinion pieces it runs that lean one way or another, while appealing to core readers. In the South this is called "preaching to the choir." Check out the opinion-to-news ratio in the typical "push" email promo package sent out each morning by The Washington Post.
It also helps that it's hard to blame news organizations for the slant or content of opinion pieces they publish. Editors can say, and this is true: Hey, don't blame us, that's his/her opinion.
Finally, there is a deeper question behind this question: How does one critique an opinion piece on issues of balance, fairness and even accuracy? After all, it's not real news. It's just opinion.
Yes, I am asking these questions for a reason. Yesterday, my Twitter feed was buzzing with reactions to an "On Faith" essay published by The Washington Post. It was written by Michael Frost, an evangelism professor who is the vice principal of Morling College, a Baptist institution in Sydney, Austrailia.