As a writer for The Reporter, I not only take pride in relaying local news as accurately as possible, I enjoy educating the community on various subjects. Because a lot of the time, I’m learning new things about how and why everything works at a newspaper, in the community and in local government. And as they say, “sharing is caring.” 

As a new staff writer, I learned the difference between an opinion column and a news article. Unfortunately, this difference seems to have eluded many people. I’m not saying that to be rude, because especially these days, it’s tough to decipher fact from fiction, or in this case fact from opinion. 

So, having the best interest of my readers — along with all readers — I wanted to explain what makes the news article different from an opinion column. First, the place one finds these two should give a hint. For example, in The Reporter, if you flip past the first page or so, there’s a page labeled “Opinions.” That’s where our readers can find each of the staff writers’ columns, the editor’s column, the paper’s stance on issues in the form of editorial articles, columns from contributors, such as fan favorites Steve Flowers and Bill King, and the readers’ opinions in the “letters to the editor.” Even though the writers may have educated opinions, it is still simply their opinion and shouldn’t be taken as hard facts.

Recently, I was at a Marshall County Commission meeting, and there was a hot button topic being discussed. There was a kindhearted gentleman there wanting to be heard, but when he spoke he quoted a letter to the editor that he read in a newspaper. Even though his heart was in the right place, he was using someone’s opinion to justify his reasoning. Thoughtfully and kindly, the county attorney informed the man of his mistake. I still felt kind of bad for the man. That’s one reason I wanted to write about this, so people like him would know where to look to find the facts.

Reading the newspaper is one of the only reliable ways to get honest news these days. To find the facts about what’s going on in the community, just look on the front page of The Reporter — not just any paper is to be trusted. I can speak for my newspaper, because I see how hard we work to make certain we’re giving the facts on any page marked as news. So, as long as it’s not the opinion page or specifically marked as something different, feel secure it’s not “fake news” or untrue. We have our readers’ backs here at The Reporter.

I greatly appreciate readers believing in me and my thoughts on various subjects. But just understand, my column is my thoughts and opinions. As much as I completely believe in what I have to say, it isn’t “the gospel,” and I’m surely not perfect. I know that’s no surprise to all of the Facebook trolls that love to point out whenever there’s a mistake made, but I’m working hard to learn, grow and develop into a better writer. 

My biggest goal is to help our community to the best of my ability, so help me help you. Always feel free to write and send in a letter to the editor expressing your opinions and thoughts, because we enjoy hearing from The Reporter’s readers.      

Nickie Simpson is a staff writer for The Reporter. She can be reached at nickie.simpson@sandmountainreporter.com.

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