I’m a journalist. I’m not supposed to have an opinion.

*Blogger’s note: This blog is mostly about journalism, but this specific post is going to take somewhat of a detour into the wonderful, crazy, obnoxious world of independent wrestling. So, please bear with me.

Before I start going on and on about indy wrestling, let me preface this by saying that from my sophomore/junior year of high school through my first year at college I wrote for a professional wrestling website/blog focused on the independent wrestling scene in the Midwest.

It was amazing. I got to interview local wrestlers and write recaps/reviews of local shows. Needless to say, as a 15 (or 16, I can’t quite remember) year old wrestling fan, being exposed to the world of independent wrestling — and being able to write about that world — was pretty much a dream come true.

I stopped writing for the site when I got promoted to Opinion Editor at my college paper, but I didn’t stop following local wrestling. For better or worse, I was hooked. The two companies I follow the most (partly because of proximity and partly because they are two of the best in the STL area, in my completely biased opinion) are Dynamo Pro Wrestling and St. Louis Anarchy.

Last night, SLA put on its biggest show of the year in Circus Maximus. It was, for lack of a better word, awesome. Every match had the crowd going and there were a couple standing ovations. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a crowd like that at a local show. Usually, it’s like pulling teeth getting the fans involved. Now, I really can’t complain about that aspect because I barely clap for the guys I like, let alone stand up yelling and screaming.

But anyway, back to what I think the point of this post was… when I was writing for the wrestling site, I did my best to keep as objective of an approach to my writing as I could. I wrote what happened, didn’t insert opinion into show recaps or interviews and generally tried to stay clear of all the political b.s. that comes with wrestling. Now that I’m technically not “involved” in the “business” anymore, I feel a little more comfortable giving my opinions.

Sure, people could probably tell by how I described a match or what shows I typically covered which guys I liked and respected and which companies I preferred to watch. But if that happened, it was never my intention. Keeping an unbiased outlook on things is so important, not just for wrestling, but in any aspect of anything, especially (shocker!) journalism.

By keeping that outlook, I think it makes people respect what you’re doing a lot more — even when the subjects you’re covering ask for your opinion. And when you’re out of the profession/business/etc. they look to you for advice or feedback. That hasn’t really happened to me, and I don’t expect it to, (It’s not like my opinion means that much to a bunch of wrestlers and promoters, right?), but the possibility is there.

So, with that said, I guess the point of this whole post is just that it’s important to remain as objective as you possibly can (duh), especially when sources ask for your personal opinion on topics you’re covering. I don’t like giving my opinion. I’d rather just write a good story that people can appreciate and leave it at that.

But some people either love the adoration or honestly want to know what you thought because they value and respect your opinion. Regardless, until you’re out of the journalistic realm, my theory is that it’s best to say as little as possible for fear of even the slightest appearance of bias in your coverage.

Staff editorials matter — My college paper just proved it

You don’t realize it when you first start writing for a newspaper (or magazine, or working in broadcast), but people, believe it or not, actually listen to what you’re saying. And that’s never been more evident than on the opinion/editorial page.

I have a soft spot for editorials (individual and staff) because of the opinion editor position being the first editor title I had in college. I was told the opinion editor spot is good for people who you want to be an editor, but you want to make sure they can handle it. There was (usually) only one page of layout, writing more opinion stories than you used to and compiling and editing everything for staff editorials. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Well, it is. But it’s also one of the most important positions on the paper, as far as I’m concerned. People like to read what other people think. People like to complain about what other people think. People like to praise people for having the same beliefs.

But what I like most about the editorial page is that it can elicit change. Did that happen while I was opinion editor? No, not really. I was able to expand the section to two-page spreads on occasion, which was great, but nothing I wrote and no staff editorials under my leadership really made a big difference.

But a recent one at my college paper did.

The staff wrote about how boarded up windows on buildings around campus, specifically Dunham Hall (the mass comm/theater building), are an eyesore and don’t accurately showcase the aesthetics of the school. They suggested, at the very least, painting the wooden boards black so they’re not such an obvious eyesore.

The Alestle’s current editor in chief posted on Facebook a couple days ago that those boards were recently painted black.

It’s just neat to me that what journalists say — especially on the college level — does matter and does make a difference. My only complaint is that it doesn’t happen more often.