Opinions Across History: Not Just Hard News

Opinion articles have been featured in The Herald since before there was a defined opinion section. Students over the ages have contributed their opinions on a wealth of topics, from national politics to campus pettiness. 

Most, when asked to imagine an opinion page, would come up with articles about politics, stuffily talked about by people with a deep understanding of white house rigamarole. But does an opinion only have to be serious? Or can we get a little silly, too? 

Anyone who’s read my work over the last nearly three years will see that I enjoy leaning on the silly side of articles when the topic allows for it, but if you have access to 100 years worth of issues of The Herald as I do you’ll see that this is no new trend. Below are a few choice stories.

An article in the Sept. 12, 1924 edition praised the new classroom chairs that had been brought to the university. “By all means, don’t just clutch down in the aforesaid article of furniture, thinking that you’re just a dumb-bell and determined to let it go at that. Take a little tip from the chair. It used to be ‘green.’”

On March 20, 1925, there was an article titled “Essays of a Free-Lance. On Working Cross-Word Puzzles.” Samuel F. Norris wrote about the difficulties of “X-word puzzling,” saying that the completion of a crossword puzzle would require “three dictionaries, seven encyclopedias, one cook book, one Spanish rhyming guide, two copies of the Monroe Doctrine and a special 1903 edition almanac.”

Sports editor Gene Howe wrote a piece on March 18, 1949, appealing to advertisers and explaining their role in The Herald. He asked students to “make it a practice to read the Herald ads; and when you buy something in Jonesboro, say to the merchant, ‘I saw your ad in the Herald.’”

Feb. 2, 1952 found a short piece on manners by Mary Dean, concerning students who race through campus with no regard to other students. “Have you knocked down any bodies, books, or bottles lately? If you have, you should check Emily Post’s book from the library and read her chapter on courtesy, it may help you win friends and influence people more easily.”

The Oct. 23, 1964 edition had a short piece from Glenda Daniel restating the library hours for the “fun-loving, happy-go-lucky, F-average-so-far students of Arkansas State.” She pointed out that the women on campus could not take advantage of the 11 p.m. library closing Mon.-Thurs. due to the 10 p.m. curfew for women. “We would really like an excuse to picket the library, so our pictures could be published in the Herald and we would become famous, but if the library can suggest an alternate solution we would be willing to burn our suffragette banners and become well-behaved, docile students once more.”

Tommy Mumert wrote a piece for the Oct. 19, 1977 edition which criticised the maintenance trucks on campus. “It is somewhat eerie walking to class and suddenly getting the feeling that you are being followed. The worst part about it is turning around to find yourself at the mercy of a gas-burning, foul-mouthed mechanical monster.”

April 12, 1981 found Sarah Stephenson bemoaning her luck with growing plants. Her failures with a potted cactus, “airplane” plant and an avocado seed led her to seek out the most unkillable plant: a plastic one. “So I’m not the world’s leading horticulturalist. At least I can cling to a modest amount of green in my decor without having to feed, water and converse with the stuff!”

April 1, 1994 had a piece by Joseph R. Cullen slamming the coffee vending machine in Wilson Hall. “Early morning classes are hard enough for commuters, much less when you can’t get a decent second cup of coffee. I won’t mention the size, for that is a whole other issue. I’d just as soon have a good cup!”

2000-01 was the era of one of my favorite opinion writers, “I’m not Insane!” Jeff “Village Idiot” Chastain. Between the “negative energy of Wilson Hall” on Oct. 31, 2000, the ice cream vending machine in Ed/Comm. which refused him a choco taco on Sept. 6, 2001, or the men’s bathroom graffiti on Oct. 18, 2001, Chastain covered a variety of outrageous topics with an even more outrageous style. He also covered Nov. 15, 2001, when someone made a parody of The Herald called The Hairold, which can still be found at https://thehairold.tripod.com/index.htm

Aug. 27, 2001 found an article by Wes Reynauld where he recounted that the squirrels were after him. “I think that we should start a campaign to get the squirrels removed from campus,” he said, going on to describe the way the squirrels had taken out the power at A-State on one occasion. 

The Herald Editorial Staff published an article in their “Our View” section on Oct. 22, 2007, which asked for more rock music to be played at the Convocation Center. They also asked for students to complete an online poll titled “Which artist would you like to see play at ASU?”

The Nov. 14, 2011 edition had a piece from Sara Krimm, in which she shared her optimism for getting old, because “being old is a free pass to act completely crazy.” The “manic waitress” shared that she had “a list of ‘crazy old lady things to do’ once I reach that golden age where being old becomes a valid excuse.”

Drawing from my own time as opinion editor, one of John Norris’ painfully few opinion pieces on March 6, 2019 covered National Anthem Day, where he satirically remarks that “the purpose of the national anthem is to placate the anger of the vengeful spirit of George Washington.” 

Clearly, opinion pieces have been a resource for those wishing to express all sorts of opinions, not just formal ones.

When I suggest to fellow students that they should consider writing opinion pieces, or when I speak to prospective writers, sometimes they say, “Oh, I don’t really have opinions on anything.” To this I say of course you do! Do you prefer cats or dogs? What’s your favorite kind of soda? Do you prefer mornings or evenings? Do you think these are stupid questions? If you were able to answer any of these, you have an opinion!

I will admit, there are topics which are harder to write opinions on. Several topics have crossed my desk where I haven’t covered them because I didn’t have much to say other than “this is bad” or because I didn’t fully understand the situation well enough to write 500-700 words on it. But to sit back and claim you have no opinions is false and selling yourself short.

Everyone has things they’re passionate about, and that’s what I encourage writers to write on when they come to write for me. Even topics that seem frivolous can have an impact when given the full attention of an opinion piece. As internet comedian Brian David Gilbert once said, “No matter how small and niche and insignificant something might seem, the very act of researching, or spending time with, or caring for it imbues it with meaning. To you, and to the people you share it with.” 

When I write articles like “Trying to Wrap My Head Around Mr. Peanut’s Resurrection” or “The Gentrification of OnlyFans,” it’s because I find those topics interesting. I see something like politicians playing Among Us on Twitch and I form an opinion about it. I then do research, and next thing I know I’m expanding the layout of the opinion page to fit my 700-word chonky boi article. And I think everyone should be able to find topics that evoke a similar response.

So why do I cover all this? Would it not be more formal to focus on the purely political opinion pieces? Perhaps. But when reading through the copies of The Herald needed to research for this piece, the funnier, almost more human stories stuck out to me. Much of this edition of The Herald focuses on serious history; I think it’s important we read about the silly history as well.

Categories: Opinion

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