By Javacia Harris Bowser
In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that this week’s Man of the Hour, Edward Bowser, is my husband. He’s also the behind-the-scenes copy editor for See Jane Write Magazine and is paid only in hugs and kisses. But those things have nothing to do with why I’m featuring him on the website this week.
With nearly 10 years of experience in the newspaper industry, Edward (sorry I can’t refer to my husband by his last name) has plenty of wise words to offer on the world of journalism. He started his career as a copy editor at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. , where he worked for eight years. Edward then worked in advertising for a few years. It was during that time that he discovered the power of social media while serving as the agency’s community manager. Last year Edward returned to his first love – newspapers. Today Edward is a community engagement specialist for The Birmingham News and AL.com.
Edward will join other editors on Aug. 22 at our Meet the Press Media Mixer set to be held in Birmingham, Ala.
SJW Magazine: What exactly is a community engagement specialist?
Edward: My role of community engagement specialist can be broken down into three main components: 1) I’m a part of the Birmingham News’ editorial board, where I weigh in on key issues around our city and nation. I also focus a lot on issues that specifically affect the young professional community. 2) I help manage the AL.com’s social media channels, using Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus to share our writers’ stories and stimulate positive conversation. 3) I work as a community ambassador, organizing and attending that help bridge the gap between the newsroom and community.
It combines my three major passions – editorializing, social media and community service – into one role. I enjoy every minute of it.
What are the keys to writing good opinion pieces?
The No. 1 rule for writing a good op-ed is to have an informed opinion. Everyone has an opinion, but backing up your statements with hard facts and engaging writing will make an impression on readers. Your op-ed also needs to be clearly focused. Stick to one topic and ride it all the way through. Meandering muddles your point.
Do your research, stand firm on your position and write in a clear and engaging manner. Whether or not your readers agree with your position, those tips will help them broaden their thinking.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write opinion pieces for an online publication but they’re afraid to receive negative comments?
When it comes to opinion writing, negative comments come with the territory. And in this era of online anonymity, that has only increased. But if you’re truly passionate about your topic, you can’t let naysayers rattle you.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important that you do your research and support your line of thinking with solid facts. That way, when the haters come a-calling (and they will), you’ll have a solid foundation to stand on. When critics attempt to pick apart my work in the comments section, I literally copy and paste paragraphs from my own column to refute their claims. They almost always back down (likely because they didn’t even finish reading the column before they started complaining). Believe in what you write and stand by it.
Remember, you don’t write op-eds to get cheers. You write them to offer a fresh perspective on an important topic.
What is your response to people who think journalism and newspapers are dying?
Journalism was born from the human desire to know more about the world around us. That curiosity and thirst for knowledge will never die. However, technology is evolving at a rapid pace and the world of media is rapidly attempting to catch up. Sure, the way we consume media is changing, and along with that change, we’ll stumble a bit to find our footing. But as long as we’re guided by the basic principles of journalism – accuracy, the pursuit of truth, and serving as a moral compass – good journalism will survive no matter what device delivers our news.
Birmingham-area readers, you can meet Edward Bowser and other editors of Birmingham-based publications at the See Jane Write Meet the Press Media Mixer presented by Hamer Law Group. This is an invitation-only event. Invitations will be extended to See Jane Write members and sponsors. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.