In the continuation of the Observer’s series “Newsroom 101,” the next lesson is the difference between opinion pieces and news articles.

The difference between the two may seem fairly obvious, but the editing process on both sides may not be.

News pieces have a fairly simple process. Reporters will fact-check their own stories and format them in Associated Press style before our editor then checks again and makes edits as she sees necessary.

Our opinion pieces also have a fairly simple process but different guidelines for opinion pieces submitted versus opinion pieces written by Observer staff.

Editorials and columns written by the Observer are fact-checked, but submitted opinions are not. Editorials are clearly labeled as such and should not be mistaken as news pieces.

We recently received a complaint about an editorial being too one-sided, when in fact, that is the point: Take a position on an issue.

Editorials are not news articles; they’re opinion. A side effect of being a reporter is being knowledgeable of local issues, and reporters more than likely have opinions on those issues.

It is standard practice to not make those opinions known publicly. Reporters are aware of their own biases and, at the Observer, we work hard to keep them out of our stories.

Editorials give newsrooms the chance to publicly have an opinion without affecting the integrity of news stories. They’ve been a feature of newspapers for centuries.

Columns from staff members are similar in that they reflect that individual’s opinion.

Regular columnists in the Observer are not usually fact-checked.

Our regular columns include:

  • “Insights” by former city councilor Cheryl Everett, giving her perspective on local government and more;
  • “Nagel on Finances” by Roger Nagel the managing director of Nagel CPAs LLC, writing about taxes, saving money, business and more;
  • “From My Bookshelf to Yours” by writer, editor and teacher Maureen Cooke, who provides book reviews; and
  • “Ellos Pasaron Por Aqui” by local historian and published author Don Bullis, who gives us a glimpse of the past.

To become a regular columnist in the paper, there is usually a healthy level of trust between the Observer and columnist.

Guest columns and letters to the editor are also not fact-checked. We edit to match AP style and fix grammar, spelling and punctuation errors, and reserve the right to edit for clarification or space constrictions.

Also, submissions cannot exceed 500 words, and pieces will not be published if they are anonymous, obscene, libelous, discriminatory or unnecessarily inflammatory.

The Observe welcomes anyone’s opinion but submissions do not reflect our opinions. We will print any opinion as long as it adheres to our guidelines.

The opinions page is usually page four in the Observer and is a chance for the community to get their thoughts in ink and share them. Healthy discussion helps a community grow and opens the door to progress.

Letters and columns may be submitted to [email protected].