I love to write and edit. Creating opinion pieces can be easy, and yet, it is the most challenging. I am a writer, not a reporter and I am glad about that! There is a huge difference between writing what you think and writing what you know.
A reporter must always write what they know. They must stay objective when crafting their piece. They must use facts, interviews, data and reasonable evidence. That is a lot of work.
But, a columnist can fly on wings made of words. As a social commentator, I can say what I feel and why I feel it. I can support my statements in whatever way I believe is most credible. Here is the rub - when writing opinion pieces, the author must open up and write with pure integrity. You cannot be shy and delicate and be a successful columnist. You have to show a world of strangers a part of your ‘inner you.’ Writing an opinion piece is extremely difficult because it makes you vulnerable in a way that objective reporting does not.
Let’s say that the president makes a speech about something. What he said is part of a news story. He either said it or he didn’t. But, if I comment on the impact of what he said or speculate about why he said it, this is my opinion, not the news. In this, people could dis’ me (and sometimes they do!), if they don’t like my perspective. Fair enough.
Opinion writers must not expect to hear “Amen” every time we make a point. We must be prepared for disagreement and maybe, ridicule. Even criticism can teach a lesson.
Reporters’ news articles are mostly prescribed. They must have that first paragraph that says who, what, when, why, where and how. They must not ‘participate’ in the piece. They must only record information that is well-sourced, provable and/or confirmed. They should have interviews to direct their stories along with reference materials, photos or other data. They must keep their articles short and sweet. Reporters should suggest a snappy (yet true) headline and include a photo selection relative to the subject of the piece. Reporting the news is all about the facts and not necessarily fun.
On the contrary, writing Couch Cat is a hoot! I can choose to be naughty or risqué. I can use any damn curse word I want. I can be bourgeois or basic. I can be ‘hood or I can be upper-class snotty. I can be agnostically radical or more like a catholic nun. I make myself laugh as I write something hilarious. If I have an ‘A-ha’ moment, I write about it. If I enjoy a nice Tanqueray-and-tonic (extra lemon, lime and ice) or eat a terrible restaurant meal, or see a great movie, I write about it. If I have a joke about boobs, butts, fat bellies, undisciplined kids, passionate sex or sexist men, I say it. If a sunrise was particularly beautiful, I can describe how the array of colours made me feel. And when love, kindness and joy suggest an uplifting story, I tell it.
In Couch Cat, I purposefully choose not to write about death, politics, taxes, religion, misery, poverty, anger, and pain (other than when you wear high heels too long in a day). You can read about those ugly truths in other sections of the newspaper, but not in Couch Cat.
Check 'the cat' out each week and for 5-10 minutes, feel a bit better, cringe or “say whaaat!”, have a laugh and join in on my feel-good fun.