It’s win or go home for the injured Eagles, and the team may need to use everything in its bag of tricks to fend off a healthy Seattle core led by Super Bowl-winning QB Russell Wilson. Later in the newsletter, we chat with opinion writer Abraham Gutman, who gives us some insight into how opinion writers blend data, reporting, and perspective to elevate the conversation on issues that impact the Philadelphia region.
Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face. This week we chat with Abraham Gutman, who gave us some insight on what it means to be an opinion and editorial writer.
Can you describe your job?
I am an opinion and editorial writer. That means I write commentary pieces that are signed (“bylined”) by me, as well as pieces that reflect the consensus opinion of the editorial board and are signed by the board. I usually write about two or three editorials a week and a bylined piece every other week.
The editorial board is a group of writers and editors who are tasked with defining the institutional point of view of the paper. The team includes former reporters, columnists, and editors. The board operates separately from the newsroom, which means that while we talk often with our news-side colleagues, we are editorially independent.
What are some differences between the work you produce as an opinion writer and the work produced by news reporters?
News reporters and opinion writers use the same methods to produce a different type of product. Like a news reporter, I either pitch my editors an idea or get assigned a topic. Then I report. That might include going to events, doing research online, interviewing people, or doing data analysis — just like a news reporter would. At the end, however, I am allowed to include my informed opinion in the piece.
That doesn’t mean I am not bound to all the ethical rules of journalism — and facts. It just means that I have room to give my own personal perspective on the set of facts that I uncovered in my reporting.
How do you incorporate data into your writing, and why is that important?
Opinion pieces vary. Some are personal perspectives and essays, others are reported columns. Personally, I like anchoring both types in data. For example, for Father’s Day, I wrote about the reactions I get as a new dad from strangers. It was important to me to make the piece about something larger than my own experience, and one way to do that is data. So I looked into statistics on the impact of becoming a parent for men vs. women. My personal observation that I am being celebrated no matter how little I do, while my wife gets criticized regardless of how much she does, matched the statistics. One study found that after becoming a parent men get a pay bump while women get a cut. Using and anchoring my work in data is a reality check that I’m not just sharing an anecdote, but am exploring a genuine phenomenon.
What are some top issues that capture your attention as an opinion writer?
The issues that interest me most are gun violence, criminal justice, and drug policy. Those are the issues that I researched before changing careers from an academic track to journalism. I am also interested and often write about racism and the manufacturing of racial inequality through policy. For example, this week, following a string of anti-Semitic attacks in New York, I wrote about the importance of responding to anti-Semitism in a way that is deliberately anti-racist. As a Jew, I felt it was important for me to share — and I feel privileged to have a platform through the opinion pages of The Inquirer.
Fill in the blank: Reach out and contact me if ______________.
you have ideas on how we can curb overdose deaths and gun violence.
It was foggy out there this weekend. Thanks for capturing the mood, @d_smoove.
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I hope everyone in attendance brings their dog masks so we can show Seattle what “Beast Mode” really means.... — Gbru412, on Wild-card weekend: Eagles-Seahawks scouting report and prediction.