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Lesson Plan January 23, 2017

Photojournalism: Writing an Opinion Piece


Media file: screen_shot_2019-08-12_at_1.08.44_pm.png
Photojournalist Natalie Keyssar presents photography from her reporting on activism by youth in Venezuela to students from Culture at Home, a support group for homeschooled students in DC, Maryland and Virginia. After Keyssar's presentation, students wrote opinion pieces inspired by the reporting using the instructions below from their teacher Pier Penic. Image by Fareed Mostoufi. United States, 2017.

Photojournalist Natalie Keyssar: Political and Economic Strains on Everyday Life in Post-Chavez Venezuela

Keyssar is an award-winning photojournalist whose work focuses on political unrest, youth culture, and class disparity, primarily in the US and Latin America. Her Pulitzer Center project uses photography to examine the human impact of economic and political uncertainty in Venezuela

Assignment: Following a presentation by Ms. Keyssar, of after reviewing Keyssar's work on your own, write an opinion piece suitable for a blog, newspaper or magazine. Allow 45 minutes to complete your assignment.

Click here for examples from students who connected with Keyssar in January 2017.

Writing an opinion piece:

If you have something important to say on your blog on any hot or controversial topic, one of the best ways to gain credible visibility and recognition for your ideas is to develop a strongly focused opinion piece, known in the newspaper trade as an "op-ed".

It is easier said than done.

Your fiery opinion, supported by facts, can make your case. An op-ed is not an essay, something that unrolls slowly like a carpet, building momentum to some point or conclusion. It is the opposite.

In an op-ed for either your blog or as a guest editorial in a newspaper, the rules are the same: You essentially state your conclusion first.

You make your strongest point up front, and then spend the rest of the op-ed making your argument, back-filling with the facts.

Done right, it is persuasive writing at its best.

By tackling an important topic of the day, you will be reaching not only your regular readers but also perhaps an elite audience of opinion-makers.

Remember, before and during the presentation, take notes and consider answering and completing the following….

  1. What do you want readers to know about the presenter Ms. Keyssar?
  2. Write several words that describe the presenter.
  3. What can we learn from her?
  4. Describe what is enjoyable about her presentation.
  5. What is substantial about photojournalism?
  6. Write several words that describe her work.
  7. Give examples or personal experiences regarding photography or photojournalism.
  8. Describe her work detail in connection to your community.
  9.  Describe the voice of the speaker.
  10.  Describe the voice of the work of art (photos).
  11.  Use empathy-describe the voice of the viewer.
  12.   Describe the voice of the factual experiences.
  13.   What is the impact of the structure of her presentation?
  14.  Be able to synthesize your point of view in one sentence.

Here's a checklist to keep your opinion piece on track:

  • Focus tightly on one issue or idea — in your first paragraph. Be brief.

  • Express your opinion, and then base it on factual, researched or first-hand information.

  • Be timely, controversial, but not outrageous. Be the voice of reason.

  • Be personal and conversational; it can help you make your point. No one likes a stuffed shirt.

  • Be humorous, provided that your topic lends itself to humor. Irony can also be effective.

  • Have a clear editorial viewpoint – come down hard on one side of the issue. Don't equivocate.

  • Provide insight, understanding: educate your reader without being preachy.

  • Near the end, clearly re-state your position and issue a call to action. Don't philosophize.

  • Have verve, and "fire in the gut" indignation to accompany your logical analysis.

  • Don't ramble or let your op-ed unfold slowly, as in an essay.

  • Use clear, powerful, direct language.

  • Emphasize active verbs, forget adjectives and adverbs, which only weaken writing.

  • Avoid clichés and jargon.

  • Appeal to the average reader. Clarity is paramount.

  • Write 750 double-spaced words or less (fewer is always better) for newspapers, but your piece can go longer for your blog. But remember, shorter is always better.

  • Include a brief bio, along with your phone number, email address, and mailing address at the bottom if your article goes to a newspaper.

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