A conversation with Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks

baltimoresun.com

baltimoresun.com

This week I paid a visit to the WYPR station in Baltimore to sit-in on the Midday news talk-show with Dan Rodricks. Rodricks is the host of Midday and is also an award-winning columnist for The Baltimore Sun, and has been for the past 30 years.

Rodricks provides commentary and opinion on local, state and federal politics, among other issues and hot-button topics.

He said prior to his column being on the Opinion pages, it ran in the News section of the paper. This shift in location has altered the way he provides information and has changed the way he is able to express his own opinion. When the column was a “news column” there was still some opinion intertwined, but it was mostly just a different style of reporting the news, a style that was more descriptive and painted a scene in an interesting perspective, he said. Now with the column on the opinion pages, he is free to simply write his opinion about a particular issue in whatever format that may be.

WYPR studio control room

WYPR studio control room

While some of his columns can take definitely sides of an argument, he is accustomed to criticism and sometimes very negative written attacks from readers. In a recent column concerning immigration and the DREAM Act, he has received hundreds of emails, coming in at a rapid pace.

“In the last day or so, I’ve received almost 300 emails from people upset about Sunday’s column,” he said.

When asked how he responds to such feedback, he acknowledged that it can be tempting to respond at times, but he traditionally does not respond via email nor in a follow-up column.

He also said that starting out with column writing, it can be easy to feel that you didn’t go about your writing in the best way possible or you may not be firm in your argument, but as time goes on, you become more comfortable with your presentation and your stance.

“You still have to do reporting to build a foundation toward your argument,” he said.

What I found interesting was understanding the different roles he plays with the different news organizations. At the Sun, he is free to share his opinion, diving as deep into an issue as he wants. He frequently makes his argument well known in his writing and backs his opinions with facts, experiences and observations. His own opinion takes the forefront of the material.

With WYPR, it is flipped. As the host of a talk-show on a public radio station his own opinions take a back seat. He said people listen to public radio to receive straight news and facts, along with the opinions of listeners who may call or email in to the show. In this field, the listener’s opinions take the forefront, and Rodricks serves more as a moderator and facilitator of discussions.

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