The Weekly: Opinion Editor Micah Sandy talks Week 6

Mika Ellison, Audio Editor



In this week’s episode of The Weekly, Opinion Editor Micah Sandy discusses how the opinion section differentiates itself from the rest of The Daily, the unique process of editing opinion pieces, and his favorite thing to do outside the newsroom.

MIKA ELLISON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison. This is The Weekly: a podcast that breaks down our top headlines each week. This week, I spoke with Opinion Editor and Medill freshman Micah Sandy about the past six weeks.


MIKA ELLISON: ​​Thank you so much for being here!

MICAH SANDY: Of course, thank you for having me!

MIKA ELLISON: Could you tell me about what you do at The Daily?

MICAH SANDY: I am the opinion editor for The Daily for this quarter. And I edit all opinion pieces that come through, either from contributing writers or from columnists. Opinion differs from reporting in that, instead of having multiple sources quoted throughout, and having the reporter act as the uniform voice that puts all those voices together with information, we have one writer – either a contributing writer who sent something in, or a columnist who decides to write about a particular theme – write about their thoughts.

MIKA ELLISON: At The Daily, the Opinion section is distinct from the rest of the paper. Reporters that choose to write for Opinion can’t report for other desks during that quarter. Columnists and contributors follow the same rule. I asked Micah if he had any insight into the purpose our Opinion section serves for the larger community.

MICAH SANDY: I believe the main goals of a publication are to serve a community, in terms of making sure everyone’s well informed and sharing what’s happening, and what other people in the community think, through interviews. And having a forum where members of the community can share their opinion – beyond just the maybe three sentences of their interview that will be shared in an article – I feel is something very important, since you can really expand on something you think and something you might be passionate about in longer form. And for readers, it’s someone from your community who’s sharing this or someone who’s connected to your community. I believe that it’s something that readers want to know, ultimately.

MIKA ELLISON: Micah’s previous position in Winter Quarter was copy editor, which can be very different from opinion, so I asked him: What made you decide to apply to be opinion editor?

MICAH SANDY: I do recall when I was editing here for copy, my favorite pieces to edit were from the Opinion desk because those were the ones that had the most voice in them. I think (it’s) because of the nature of the desk, in terms of having 700 to 900 words to yourself to express your opinions and your experiences and your perspective. And even though I’ve never met the contributing writers that I edited for as copy, or never heard them, when I read their pieces, because of just how much of their perspective was in it, it was almost like I could hear their voices. And that was something I really admired. When I joined The Daily, I initially thought I’d go into reporting because reporting is what I’m passionate about. But more than that, I just really love getting to know people. And I thought that there was no better way to do it than to edit opinion pieces, since you guide someone through every step of editing. And you see the raw version, raw draft of what they want to share and then what it can flower into.

MIKA ELLISON: Recently, the Audio and Opinion desks have been working together to have opinion writers read aloud their pieces, so that their articles can be heard in their voices. I asked Micah how starting the project has been.

MICAH SANDY: I’ve been surprised by how many yeses we’ve gotten. Because we have it, as of right now, as an opt-in feature. I ask anyone who writes for Opinion if they’d like to record an audio cut, with the goal of preserving the tone they intend to portray in their piece, and also increasing accessibility for multitasking and people who could really benefit from reading and hearing a piece at same time, or just hearing the piece out loud. And I’m really excited to see how it all looks at the end of the quarter.

MIKA ELLISON: How has being an opinion editor allowed you to engage with the wider Northwestern community?

MICAH SANDY: Being able to be in touch with contributing writers and people who are writing for Opinion has really meant a lot for me this quarter. Getting to know what they’ve experienced and also what they think, in a way that you can’t get in maybe your discussion class, or during a brief lunch conversation or when you walk past them by The Rock. Having that experience of reading over it or writing in this way, and then helping it come to fruition in terms of having a finished article that’s published— you get to know someone in general, like in a whole different way.

MIKA ELLISON: Many opinion pieces are submitted to The Daily by students or alumni, and they’re all reviewed by the opinion editor. When you’re sorting through submissions, what do you look for?

MICAH SANDY: We mainly look for connection to the Northwestern community, to the Evanston community. If you’re a Northwestern student and would like to write about any topic, you’re more than welcome to. And if you’re a Northwestern alum, or professor, faculty member, (or have) any direct connection to Northwestern, you’re more than welcome to write for Opinion.

MIKA ELLISON: Micah also talked about ensuring that opinion pieces are kept separate from other aspects of The Daily, and the desk’s policy on which opinion pieces to publish.

MICAH SANDY: The other criteria we have is not having anything hateful, or anything that incites violence. Other than that, we don’t censor voices, because we respect people’s opinions. And we definitely don’t invalidate anything that does abide by the criteria we have. And we make sure that we distinguish that the views expressed in opinion pieces aren’t the ones shared by staffers, or editors, or the publication as whole, with a blurb at the end that shares the writer’s email address, and then also invites people who are really passionate about a piece they read, and would like to share a response about it, or respond to it.

MIKA ELLISON: Do you have to be an opinionated person to write for the Opinion desk?

MICAH SANDY: Definitely not. Sometimes ​​a misconception is that opinion pieces are like the argumentative essays that you’re assigned in high school where you have to support your arguments with facts. And if you’re trying to make an argument, definitely support it with facts or some other form of evidence or experiences. But not all opinion pieces have to be that way. You could just write to share your own experiences – from the Northwestern community, from your time so far at Northwestern and your time so far in Evanston. And you’re definitely free to write anything. Opinion can be anything you want it to be.

MIKA ELLISON: Speaking of opinions, I wanted to ask about some opinions you have about the newsroom, where we spend a lot of our time. First: what’s your favorite newsroom snack?

MICAH SANDY: My favorite newsroom snack has to be protein bars. I personally am a fan of Quest. So because the newsroom is in Norris, I conveniently head down to the market and buy myself just any protein bar they have, honestly. And it’s a good snack that keeps me full throughout the hours they spend here. And it complements my workouts.

MIKA ELLISON: Speaking of time outside the newsroom, what’s your favorite way to destress and create some balance in your life as a student journalist?

MICAH SANDY: The gym. I work out six times a week, and I have for the past couple of years. It’s something that has, aside from my school schedule, really helped me to gain a sense of routine. And I prioritize the gym the same way I prioritize brushing my teeth. I see it just as something very important to me. And it’s the one time in the day where I don’t have any other concern whatsoever, aside from, “How many reps am I doing? How many minutes are there before my class? Am I going for the bench or am I going for the dumbbells?”

MIKA ELLISON: Finally, if the Opinion desk had a motto, what do you think it would be?

MICAH SANDY: Write to your heart’s content, within 700 to 900 words.

MIKA ELLISON: Perfect! Thank you so much, Micah.

MICAH SANDY: Of course. Thank you so much for having me. This was quite fun.


MIKA ELLISON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison. Thanks for listening to another episode of The Weekly. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is myself, the digital managing editors are Ava Mandoli and Erica Schmitt and the editor-in-chief is Alex Perry. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear next week’s episode on Monday.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MikaEllison23

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