Opinions are expressed in the mass media the two dominant forms: the review and the editorial. In both cases, the pieces or the pages where they appear are usually labelled to signal the audience that what, is being expressed is someone else’s judgment, not straight news.
lt is unusual for a general-assignment reporter to also prepare reviews or editorials, On many metropolitan dailies, the editorial-page staff has no reportorial assignments. Often that is also true of reviewers. Editorial writers and reviewers ‘are hired for their particular expertise.
Reporting on the arts is quite different from critiquing them. The artistic being judged insist on, and deserve, educated reviewers. Those Meuse can be made for editorials. A knowledge of government. economics and sociology is a prerequisite to an informed judgment of local. state and national affairs.
Simply having an opinion is not enough to write a good opinion piece. Your demonstrated knowledge of the general topic, prior background. sensitivity to the specific subject at hand and expertise is what makes your opinion worth reading or listening to.
A review, by someone unfamiliar with the history of Elizabethan theater might refer to a Shakespeare-in-the-Park performance as introducing Shakespeare to the people; an editorialize unaware of the congressional system of immunity and privilege might write about, “libelous statements made on the floor of the Senate. If Such gaffes damage the credibility not only of the writer but of the medium.
Opinion writing: Reviews and editorials The most common review subjects, are books. films. theater, television shows, concert”, recorded music, art exhibits and restaurants.
Reviews are informed judgments about the content and quality of something presented to the public. The responsibility of a reviewer is to report and evaluate.
The reviewer is “the deputy for the average man or woman who wants to know: ‘What is the new TV series about?” Is the movie too dirty for the kids?” Will the book really improve my sex life or tell me how to make a chocolate mousse?” The reviewer to “think what you would want to know if you had to spend the money for the movie. the baby-sitter and the long-promised dinner at a good restaurant. “
Reviews and criticism are not the same thing. Most reviews appear in mass media-sprint and broadcast. local and syndicated-and are really a form of interpretative reporting.
Reviewers cover the industry of art. Critics write about art and artists. The mass media, especially newspapers, usually can’t accommodate criticism, whose detailed analyses are better suited to specialized magazines. Some metropolitan papers, however, do have critics, specialists in certain fields-art, dance, drama.
Research for reviewing
It is easy to be critical, but that doesn’t make you a critic. You must know something about the subject. In addition to some prior training. you have to do research on the specific subject. If you’re writing a book review, you should find out some things about the “author. What else has he or she written? Were prior works similar in content to the work being reviewed? Were they well received by other critics? The public? What kind of training, preparation or experience did the author have for writing the book? In other words, you must be familiar with the author and the author’s other works to put a new work in perspective.
The same is true of reviewing plays, concerts or other efforts. When the presentation is a collective effort. like a performance, there is a great deal of research to do before you pass judgment. Many reviewers try to interview the artists involved to help them with their assessment.
Writing the review
Since reviews have no prescribed format, framing them sometimes is a problem. It helps to follow this general pattern:
1. Write a brief paragraph or two about the nature of the subject. If it’s a play, indicate whether it’s a comedy, tragedy, mystery, personality sketch or study. If it’s a concert, let the audience know if the music was classical, popular, jazz, rock, contemporary, experimental–and in what format: ensemble, orchestra, solo instrument, vocal. If it’s a book, say whether it. was an adventure, thriller, philosophical treatise–and in what style: first-person narrative, expository, historical.
2. Indicate early whether you liked the work. Since you’re writing an opinion intended to influence the public, it’s only fair that your personal point of view is clear at the . outset. And don’t feel obligated to always be favorable. If you don’t believe the subject is worth the audience’s time, let the audience know. Support your opinion. This is perhaps the most difficult step in writing the review, for it requires calling on your prior background and knowledge of the subject. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the work. Point out specifically what you liked and didn’t like–and be explicit. At the same time, you might indicate what the audience reaction was, if it is a public performance. a it
3. A In writing the review avoid commonplace adjectives that have little meaning, such as conceptualized, or inspiring. Avoid superlatives– “the best ever never in history has anything like “without doubt the most inept performance ever staged.” A gross overstatement about the good or the bad is not likely to be accepted by t~e public. A more detective approach is to note particular points Overpraising and areas of inadequacy.
The final paragraphs Can be handled as a short, tight summary of your reaction. In some cases, the time, location and cost or ticket price are noted. Some publications and stations avoid such references, deeming them free advertising.
You can, if you’re confident your review is thorough and reflects your honest evaluation of the worth of the book, concert or play, recommend a course of action to the audience: Read the book, attend the concert, avoid the play. But be certain your recommendation has been supported by your earlier statements.