Lesson from an OpEd Leader on Using The Personal

weldon-300x240The OpEd Project’s  Michele Weldon recent Christian Science Monitor op-ed “Fallout from Olympic wrestling takedown – a mother’s protest” is an example of combining  personal anecdotes in an opinion piece. Weldon, an author of three nonfiction books and a journalist for more than 33 years, is the director of the Northwestern Public Voices Fellowship. In this op-ed she strikes a solid balance between presenting personal experiences and history with stats, news and data.


Take for instance, the lede of her article, which introduces her personal experience:

I’m the mom of a wrestling family. Last August, two of my sons – both former high school wrestlers – went to the London Olympics to root for our local star, Ellis Coleman, a.k.a., the “flying squirrel,” who wrestled Greco Roman.

Though Coleman lost, Weldon explains that he intended to continue competing. However, “The governing board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted by secret ballot Feb. 19 to exclude wrestling from its guaranteed slot in the 2020 summer games, reportedly to “modernize” the Olympics.”

Weldon's three sons.

Weldon’s three sons.

Weldon, an assistant professor of journalism at The Medill School at Northwester, weaves personal experience with timely, relevant facts. Later in her article, Weldon reminds us of her insight and expertise as a parent into the world of amateur youth, high school and college wrestling.

In 13 years of watching my three sons wrestle, I learned quickly that people commonly mistake youth and high school wrestling for the clownish, steroid-pumped fights of platinum-blonde professional WWF wrestling on television.

Next, she moves to hard data and evidence of the importance wrestling holds for high school youth comparison to other sports, such as gymnastics and swimming:

According to the National Federation of High Schools, nearly 57,000 more American high school athletes wrestle than play golf, a sport that the International Olympic Committee plans to keep in the summer mix. There are 13 times more high-school wrestlers in this country than gymnasts in high schools, and nearly the same number of wrestlers as swimmers and divers at the high school level.

This serves as an example of how an op-ed can use personal insight, persuasion, news hooks and evidence to create a valid argument.


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