Home Opinion Civiletti Denise Civiletti News vs. opinion, the need for intelligent discourse, free...

Denise Civiletti
News vs. opinion, the need for intelligent discourse, free speech and all that jazz

There is a big difference between a news story and an opinion column.

The Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism states it like this: News is timely information about a subject of shared public interest. It is subject to the journalistic process of verification by an independent organization.

Opinion is a view, a judgment, or an appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter.

Civiletti_hed_badge_2014Every opinion column we publish on our websites is labeled as opinion and posted in the opinion section on our websites. Also, if it is written by one of our regular columnists, it is accompanied by a headshot. If it’s a guest column, it will have an “In My Opinion” or “Letters to the Editor” graphic.

Yesterday I published an opinion column about the candidacy of Donald Trump. It contained my opinions about his candidacy and his character. The facts I refer to in my opinion column — for example, things Trump has said — came from video recordings of him saying those things or from his own Tweets and Facebook posts. They are all well-documented. They are not “propaganda” published by the Clinton campaign or the DNC or the “liberal media.”

One of the recurring themes in the hateful thread of comments posted on our Facebook pages was that as a news outlet we should not be publishing opinions and as a reporter I have no right to express them on our news website.

I want to address that criticism because it is important to understand why opinion journalism has value.

Opinion journalism in America dates back to the earliest days of our republic. Read about it on the Center for News Literacy’s website: A short history of opinion journalism.

Contrary to the opinion of the president-elect, who called journalists “the lowest form of human life” journalism is important — and it’s more important today in this age of the proliferation of partisan and ideological propaganda masquerading as news online.

The reporting process requires verification, validation and critical thinking. Reputable news outlets don’t publish unsubstantiated rumors. Even when anonymous sources are used, reputable news outlets have strict standards about when and under what circumstances they may be used. This vetting process has great value to us as a society. It allows us to sort fact from fiction and make informed decisions.

Without that process in place in an age where “everyone’s a publisher”, we have been overrun by false stories that have gone viral, propagated by fake news sites with their own political agendas. Our system of government has and will continue to suffer gravely because of that.

I have a right to express the opinions I published yesterday, whether you agree with them or not and, frankly, whether you like it or not.

You are free not to read it. You are free not to read our publication. You are free not to do business with us. You are free to live inside your echo chamber of choice.

But I’ll tell you what. I work long and hard to produce quality, carefully reported, accurate and reliable local news for our community. I have high standards for myself and do my level-best to abide by the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists of which I am proud to be a member.

My husband Peter Blasl and I lead a team of dedicated, hard-working people who care about our community as much as we do. And we work tirelessly to run a responsible business, make payroll — we have a staff of nine employees and several freelancers — pay our bills and our taxes. I mention this because, among other things, I was accused yesterday of not working hard, being incompetent and not knowing what it’s like to run a business and make payroll. Because, you know, as a “liberal” that’s outside my wheelhouse. Only Republicans do those things, you see.

We provide the fruits of our labors to you, our readers, without charge. Free. Our websites and the people who produce them are supported by local business advertising. They advertise on our sites because advertising here is an effective way to reach the local people who are our readers – the more than 100,000 people who visit our sites every month.

It’s not OK to talk to me or anyone else the way people expressed themselves on our Facebook pages yesterday. If you disagree with me, fine. Say so. But express yourself like an adult. Stop with the name-calling and personal attacks. They don’t add to the conversation and in some cases are little more than bullying. Reading through these comments made me feel like I’d been thrown to a mob.

It makes me sad that people think like this, let alone talk like this. It makes me sad that it’s accepted. And that is something I believe has been made more acceptable by the type of discourse Trump has engaged in during the just-ended campaign.

And please don’t give me the “politically correct” stuff. I do not believe people should modify their opinions to avoid offending people. I’m saying you should be adult enough and smart enough and articulate enough to express your opinions without making fun of someone or trash-talking them, or attacking them.

Below is a sampling of comments by some of the many people who apparently disagreed with my opinion but could find no better way to say so than with this sorry collection of drivel. What a squandered opportunity for intelligent discourse. There were hundreds of comments on the post. Some were supportive. Some were critical but intelligent. Sadly, though, these highlights reflect the majority.

Please note: These are not edited and some contain vulgarities.

In their own words:

With a little luck you will wake up in the night to your rapist and murderer that your beloved hillary let in.

This Denise Civiletti is on drugs

Denise Civiletti. Read the comments. No matter how much they pay you to write such crap, you will always be a hack.


This is one of the worst written, ill informed pieces of wannabe journalistic trash I’ve ever read.

Apparently you have no regard for the law and those who serve to enforce it!

take you yellow journalism and shove it.


Riverhead would be a better place if you moved.

Riverhead local. Your a disgrace. I will delete your page.

Wow! This is what you use freedom of speech for???

Keep smoking Crack cause your wack

Your an idiot


U stupid liberal bitch

Bag of dicks it’s what’s for dinner

Hey Denise your disgusting to even post this nonsens

Communist Manifesto

Denise for prison

Shes the biggest hypocrite of them all.

What a bullshit News source…lmao.
Bunch of smug, uneducated, know it all, hypocritical, contradicting, spoiled liberal douchebags that create these articles and support all the corruption in Suffolk County.

My opinion is you are a sicko

SoutholdLOCAL can kiss my ass.

another air head democrat who is very UNPROFESSIONAL

Wow are you misinformed to the brink of stupidity! Where did you ever get your biased opinion from the MSM?

let’s save Riverhead from narrow minded editors that can’t see past themselves

This article is extremely biased! Riverhead local should be embarrassed! TRUMP 2016!!!!! Get your facts right before you publish an article!!!

I grew up in Riverhead and it’s a shame to see what asswipes like Denise Civiletti and other left wing nuts have done to that town, it was nice during the Reagan years.. FU Riverhead Local paper, wouldn’t wrap fish heads in it!

I’m guessing they got their propaganda check along with many of the other news outlets.

Riverhead Local should keep their opinion to itself – who allowed this to even get published?

This article is extremely biased! Riverhead local should be embarrassed! TRUMP 2016!!!!! Get your facts right before you publish an article!!! ��������

How do you get away with writing such a biased article?

riverhead local needs new writers…I won’t be reading this paper with people life this working there

I found it funny how this “reporter” bashes Fox News in her completely one sided attack. Hypocrite much?

Reads like you got help from the DNC…do you work for CNN too?

This must be coming from a liberal there the only ones thats stupid enough they cant see whats in front of them

Using your platform as a political pulpit. Shame on you

You can lead a Liberal to knowledge, but you can’t make them think!!!

I need a new RiverheadLocal sticker. I want to cover the old one but upside down!


Its garbage day and It’s time to take out the trash. Denise civiletti you might as well jump in the bag with Hillary.

Please keep your opinions to yourself.

Your blatant lack in judgment is terrifying to think that people like you are able to vote !!!

You really need to do your homework maybe you have been on another planet.

let’s save Riverhead from narrow minded editors that can’t see past themselves

And my favorite:
I am REALLY HAPPY I cancelled my subscription to your paper a while ago. Such a classy lady Denise! (Dear Paulette: We don’t publish a paper and do not have paid subscriptions. You must be confusing RiverheadLOCAL with something else.)


Denise Civiletti is an owner of East End Local Media Corp., publishers of SoutholdLOCAL and RiverheadLOCAL. An award-winning reporter, including a “Writer of the Year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015, she is an attorney, former Riverhead Town councilwoman (1988-1991) and former co-publisher and executive editor of The Suffolk Times. The views expressed in this column are hers alone.  Send Denise an email.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.