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Columns vs. articles

Just to clarify… Articles and columns are two entirely different things, and the terms are not synonymous or interchangeable.

In light of recent events, this seemed as good a time as any to shed some light on this topic and help clear up any confusion.

News is reported in articles, which are typically written by reporters and paid staff. With articles, facts are reported in as objective a manner as possible.

In a 2020 editorial published by the “Jacksonville Progress,” it was clarified that articles are designed to “clearly and accurately depict a given situation,” which seems like a fairly clear and concise definition.

Articles are not biased and are to remain objective, leaving the writer’s own personal opinions out of it. Articles contain news and facts only and are intended to be informative.

Columns, on the other hand, are regular features in the newspaper written by the same columnist each time. Columns can, and often do, contain the author’s opinion or point of view, which is the viewpoint of the individual writing it and not representative of the viewpoint of the publication itself.

Simply put, a column states an opinion. In many instances, columns are like open letters. While not all columns are opinion pieces, each columnist is entitled to their own opinion and frequently shares those opinions, even in community columns.

While this is what a column is, for whatever reason some people seem to take issue with one column over others, even though they all share the opinions and viewpoints of their writers.

Our columnists are able to share their opinions, and no one seems to balk at that, with the exception of one columnist, Buzzy the Buzzard, who writes “The Buzz” community column on a semi-weekly basis.

In a comment on a recent social media post regarding a column in last week’s edition, one person commented, “Has anyone here asked for ALL of the facts concerning this issue? … Oh and by the way, have any other townships or communities contributed? Buzzy… where are you on that! [sic]”

Well, simply put, that isn’t Buzzy’s or any other columnist’s job. No other columnist has been berated for not sharing all of the facts on any one particular issue mentioned in their columns, because that isn’t their job.

Also, as a community columnist who focuses on covering the Rockford area, it is not Buzzy’s place to “report” on what action or inaction was made by other municipalities.

In fact, in the exact same edition – June 10 – an article covering the Kellyton Town Council meeting did just that. It reported what the Kellyton Town Council did and said during its meeting, including its response regarding the request made by Dennis Hill on behalf of the Coosa County Animal Shelter.

Another comment on the aforementioned social media post stated, “…It was a response to the article to explain and dispell [sic] any and all future rumors and misinformation that was allowed to be released without question. … I applaud our town leadership for taking the proverbial bull by the horns and issuing a reply to an article that gives only one view…”

To clarify, the “article” being referenced was not an article at all, but actually a column. Also as addressed previously, columns are allowed to give only one view, as they are the opinions and viewpoints of their respective writers.

To touch on the matter of said column containing “misinformation” and being “allowed to be released without question,” the column did not contain any misinformation, but did contain the writer’s opinion. As do the majority of our columns, which have not received the same backlash or negative responses simply over columnists sharing their opinions and views.

Touching on the subject of misinformation, another individual commented, “I personally would rather have people address comments head on to point out misinformation rather than ignore bad information hoping it will go away. … I wish people would check information before assuming it is true.”

We wholeheartedly agree. So why don’t we do that now?

In a post on its Facebook page last Friday referencing Buzzy’s column, the Town of Rockford stated, “We would like to see what the commission pledges before we pledge.”

However, it is up to the Rockford Town Council to make that decision, and unless the council held a meeting without informing the public or the media – which would be illegal – then the decision to wait and see what the commission does first was never made or even voiced.

As reported in an article in the May 27 edition covering the Rockford Town Council meeting, “… However, after his [Dennis Hill’s] presentation the town did not state whether it would provide any assistance for the animal shelter, and [Mayor] White and council members did not comment on the matter.”

It is worth noting that the individuals referenced above were not in attendance for that council meeting. One even privately admitted they had not read “The Buzz” that week and was instead just defending someone without having read what was being referenced.

Since those individuals were not present for the meeting to “get all the facts” and perhaps overlooked the information in the May 27 edition, we wanted to set the record straight.

“The Buzz” was correct in stating that the Rockford Town Council had not pledged to help the animal shelter. Beyond that, the council did not state whether it would look into helping the shelter with funding.

At the May meeting, as previously reported, Hill made his presentation to the Rockford Town Council and asked for any financial help the town might be able to provide in order to help the shelter become a reality. After hearing his presentation and asking a couple of questions, Hill was thanked and sat down, and the council moved on to the next item on the agenda.

The council did not respond to his presentation and did not state that it wanted to wait to see what the County Commission pledges first before acting on the matter.

So concerning any “misinformation,” we are happy to set the record straight, just as we are happy to clarify and explain the differences between articles and columns.

Beyond the statement that the council did not pledge to help the shelter, other comments made in the column regarding the matter were opinions, which the writer is allowed to share in a column. In days gone by, believe it or not, people could simply “agree to disagree” and move on.

In these days of social media and keyboard warriors, it seems as if everyone is expected to share the same opinions and viewpoints, and Lord help you if you don’t share the same opinion.

Personally, I like the ability to hear different opinions and look at things from varying points of view. What a dull and boring life it would be if we all thought the exact same way and had the exact same opinions.

Thirty years ago when Lewis Scarbrough founded “The Coosa County News,” he did it with a vision of people being free and able to share their opinions, and today, even in the wake of his passing, we continue to uphold that vision.

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