Opinion Writing in the Age of Twitter

New York Times columnist Ernesto Londoño delivers 2016 Mary Alice Davis Lecture

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Among the problems affecting the media’s coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign were the lack of fact-checking, the blurring of fact and opinion and the public’s trust in news media. This is according to New York Times opinion writer Ernesto Londoño, who keynoted the School of Journalism's Mary Alice Davis Distinguished Lecture in Journalism Oct. 3.

Titled “Opinion Writing in the Age of Twitter,” Londoño's lecture addressed the challenges he faces at The Times when competing with an omnipresent and opinionated media landscape.

“The Times has a huge appetite to break the mold and do things different to compete in a more effective way with this incessant chatter of opinion that we live with these days,” said Londoño.  “Everybody who has a smartphone is entitled to an opinion and has any number of platforms available to be heard.”

To be noticed, Londoño said it’s important to innovate and highlighted much of the work he’s done at The Times as an editorial writer on foreign affairs since he joined the 165-year-old newspaper in September 2014. His examples included columns on reintroducing relations with Cuba, leveraging The Times to solicit stories from those in the transgendered community, and publishing an opinion column on immigration in Spanish. Londoño also emphasized that editorials remain separate from other sections of a newspaper to serve a different purpose.

“At its best, I think editorial pages are the moral compass of a newspaper and sort of the conscious of the community they represent,” said Londoño, who also teaches international reporting at the City University of New York. “They’re the best place where you can sort of call shots, take people to account, speak truths that are uncomfortable and do it in a very prominent and loud way.”

Londoño was born in Bogotá, Colombia, moved to the U.S. in 1999 and studied journalism and Latin American studies at the University of Miami before launching a career in news. He said as a member of The Times editorial board, he strives to make readers more aware of important issues that are seldom discussed.

“When we’re most effective is when we surprise readers, when we draw them in on an issue that wasn’t really on their minds, that they weren’t thinking about and that nobody else is really writing about or covering in a sophisticated way,” said Londoño.

Londoño previously worked at The Washington Post, where he covered the Pentagon and served as a foreign correspondent. From 2008 to 2012, he reported on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Arab uprisings from Baghdad, Cairo and Kabul. Earlier in his career, Londoño worked the local news desks at The Dallas Morning News and The Washington Post.


Marc Speir
Senior Content Producer