The short answer is that news articles report information or document current events while opinion pieces are typically an analysis of current events written to persuade the reader. Both news articles and opinion pieces printed in newspapers can be fact-based, but opinion pieces analyze various reports, events, conversations, or studies to argue for a particular understanding of the news stories.
The long answer is that differentiating between opinion and news articles requires applying critical reading skills – not just reading the article itself but taking hints from the way an article looks or how an article is written.
Occasionally opinion pieces will be prominently labelled, easing some of the critical reading work. If you are searching for news articles in library databases like Gale OneFile’s News or Newspaper Source, the word “Opinion” may precede the article’s headline (e.g., “Opinion: Coffee Should Be Free”). If you are browsing the New York Times website, opinion pieces can be found in the Opinion section, containing editorials from staff writers and guest columnists. New York Times opinion articles themselves often have the word “opinion” above the headline of the article. However, articles are not always so conspicuously marked, requiring a more thorough strategy to determine whether an article is opinion or news.
For example, let’s say someone was bitten by a dog in Huguenot Park. A news article about this incident could have a headline “Dog Attack at Huguenot Park, 6th Biting Incident This Year,” while an opinion piece might have the headline “Ban Dogs from New Rochelle Parks: The Incident at Huguenot Park.” The news article conveys the who, what, when, where, and why of the dog attack, while the opinion piece uses those facts as a foundation for an argument against dogs in New Rochelle parks. This does not mean that news articles lack analysis; plenty of news pieces explain the context surrounding newsworthy events, often by interviewing or quoting subject experts. Rather than explicitly citing the opinions of other reporters or subject experts, though, opinion pieces are rife with uncited statements from the author. These opinions can take obvious forms, like the author writing “I believe that dogs are incapable of not biting when they are in New Rochelle parks.” Conversely, opinion pieces can subtly insinuate an opinion by making bold, evocative claims without attributing the statement to a study or subject expert, like “dogs are known to become aggressive in Huguenot Park because of all the squawking birds.” This video provides additional criteria for evaluating whether an article is an opinion piece or news article.
Despite opinion articles taking a more subjective approach to current events, opinion pieces remain a journalistic staple, allowing readers intellectual in-roads to think critically about current events. Opinions expressed by opinion writers do not always reflect opinions of the publication or other staff writers at the publication, but when you notice that pieces labelled as news start seeming eerily like opinion pieces in the publication, approach the publication with greater caution as they may be peddling in fake news. When in doubt, librarians are available at the Research desk or via email to help guide you through the process of discerning opinion articles from news articles.
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