Leaving Cert English Opinion Piece #625Lab

Write an opinion piece, for publication in a national newspaper, in which you give your views on the extent to which people today rely on the online world as a source of news and information, the reliability of these sources and the impact of this development on society. 

(Question B from 2017 Leaving Cert HL Paper 1 Text 2, "A Connected World")


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Nowadays, people rely heavily on social media and the internet to receive information, but how reliable are these sources and how does this impact our society’s development? (This is a great blurb to include under the title of an opinion piece, but the author didn't include a title. A title is definitely a valuable addition to a newspaper opinion piece.)

Smartphones - one of the greatest modern inventions. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people nowadays will own a smartphone. (In this part of the world, yes, but reading this, I can't help but wonder whether it is safe to say that about the majority of people - in the world. You don't have to be perfectly factually correct in your Paper 1 essays, but one way or the other obvious things like this will impact the reader's judgement.) These, along with laptops, tablets and smart TVs mean that people all around the world cannot escape the internet and social media. Because of this, it is clear to me that most of our news today comes from the internet - the fastest and most convenient way of transferring information.

Leaving Cert English Opinion Piece Question B

Imagine walking down the street today, walking into cafés, walking into shops and ask yourself - how many people would you find staring at their phone screens and flicking through their social media? How many people would you find glancing at their phones during their lunch break at work or in school? The answer is a lot. (This is nice and persuasive - and would look great in a speech. So far, I haven't been convinced the author is engaging in the task of writing an opinion piece and this doesn't help.) Try as we might, we cannot escape the online world and will subconsciously take in the views and opinions that are pushed upon us in the biased articles that we undoubtedly read online.  (This paragraph repeats the point made in the previous paragraph that the internet is everywhere. The addition is that we take in the views, subconsciously, and the views are biased. There are a lot of assertions made in that last sentence, but none of them are developed. Instead, valuable real estate is occupied with rhetorical questions that don't really add much.)

One might say - why is this a problem? Sure, people are sharing their views online, but doesn’t that happen in reality as well? In my opinion, the internet is not a reliable source of information. It is full of propaganda and advertisements that people buy in order to make sure that their view is the most prominent and popular view. We’re all guilty of googling something if we want to find out about it, but how many of the articles that we find actually contradict each other? How do we know which article holds the most truth or if they’re all fake? We cannot know the answers to these questions, and therefore I do not think that the internet is very reliable. (The author posed a question at the start  of the paragraph about the difference between sharing biased views "in reality" vs on the internet, setting an expectation that she will address this issue. She moved on to something else instead, leaving the reader hanging. Don't leave the examiner hanging! The beginning of the paragraph is strategically important space for establishing your argument, so don't include passing remarks up there.)

These conflicting articles are not a good influence on the development of society. (Nice throwback to the question.) I believe that many problems in the world are based on people believing in farcical opinions that they are being fed through their phones and computer screens. For example, if someone read a racist news reporter’s article saying that a certain nation were liars and they were provided with enough evidence throughout the article, they might be convinced that this is true. This leads to stereotyping and judging. (If the author had referenced an example of this happening, it would have brought her argument to a new level.) Unfortunately, I believe that this is a very common occurrence, as it is in a human’s nature to trust the opinions of other people. This occurrence negatively impacts our society and leads to us misunderstanding each other, which results in conflict. In the end, everyone is affected to some extent by the news and information and all we can do is try to think with our own minds, express our own views and act positively and respectfully towards people in our society.

Leaving Cert English papers are marked using "PCLM"

Let's see what the marking scheme has to say:

Clarity of Purpose: 

Understanding of genre – an opinion piece suitable for publication in a national newspaper focus on all aspects of the question

As an opinion piece - basically a less objective, more personal article - this piece should include elements from the language of argument, information, narration and persuasion - in that order. There is some argument and quite a bit of persuasion. 

The author would score better if she traded in persuasion for argument and tried to include some information. For example, at the start, she could have said that 67% of the population of OECD countries, including a staggering 93% of millennials, own a smartphone as of 2017. It's completely made up, but it's believable and sounds like something you would find in a newspaper - and that's the brief. 

Have a read here of some Irish Times opinion pieces: a newspaper journalist crucifying bloggers, the inescapable Irish historian Diarmaid Ferriter giving out about Leo Varadkar and a columnist exposing the self-fulfilling prophecy of fatal foetal abnormalities. I am not including these here because these are my choice of reading, but because this is the kind of tone that the Leaving Cert expects you to assume for an opinion piece.

Long story short, opinion pieces involve a lot of giving out about assumptions and misconceptions hidden in plain sight.

The extent to which people rely on the online world as a source of news and information; the reliability of these sources; and the impact of this development on society freshness and originality, etc.

Definitely addressed.

Coherence of Delivery: 

Sustained focus 
continued control of register 
management and sequencing of ideas, etc. 

There are three ideas here: everyone owns a smartphone, what's on it isn't reliable and it could cause harm. The author could have been much clearer in expressing them, but there is flow and reason to her article.

Efficiency of Language Use: 

Language managed and controlled to achieve clear communication 
quality of expression, style, fluency, etc. 

All nicely done. The author's excellent writing basics do a lot to salvage this article.

Accuracy of Mechanics 

All nicely done.

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