February 11, 2009

Opinion at The Cornell Daily Sun: Columnist Information and Application

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We’re glad you’re interested in becoming a Sun columnist! It’s the most awesome job on campus. Please read the following information to learn how to get involved. Send all questions, comments and concerns to [email protected].

The Way It Works

Columnists write bi-weekly columns (once every other week) on a set day, ranging from about 700-800 words. Columns are due at noon the day before publication (for example, a Monday column is due at noon on Sunday). Columnists are expected to edit with the Associate Editor for approximately 30 minutes to an hour at The Sun office (139 W. State Street, near the Commons) the evening before publication. The Opinion section aims to represent a broad spectrum of viewpoints and support strong, defined and unique voices. As such, columnists must be able to argue distinct and/or uncommon perspectives on a range of issues and events. Columnists should have something to say and know how to say it. We strive to make the section as quirky, diverse and irresistible as possible.

In addition to regular columnists, The Sun features Guest Room columns. All members of the community submit Guest Rooms on a piece-by-piece basis. Guest Rooms columnists often speak on issues with an exceptional level of expertise or involvement, such as Student Assembly representatives speaking on campus policy. Additionally, Guest Room columns provide the opportunity for people to contribute with fresh and unheard perspectives on pertinent issues in campus, local, national or global news. We do not publish columns written by student groups (no political endorsements from campus political groups). We do accept columns by members and leaders of campus groups who speak as individuals. If you do not become a full time columnist, you can still write Guest Rooms. In fact, many of our columnists began as contributors.

How to Apply

Although the application process is simple, space is limited and becoming a columnist is competitive. We encourage all to apply and look forward to hearing from you. We receive many submissions — please wait at least three weeks to send any follow-up emails. You may apply more than once. An application includes the following short answer questions and two previously unpublished sample columns. For further instructions, see below.

Before filling out the application, please have a look at these “top five tips”:

  1. Have a voice and make it heard.
  2. Argue.
  3. Do not write from any “typical” perspective: the “liberal” or “conservative” or “left” or “right” viewpoint is a bore. What is different about your views? What personal experiences, perspectives or anecdotes can you bring in to engage the reader?
  4. Interesting topics make interesting news stories. A columnist’s job is to answer the question, “So what?”
  5. Know your audience and the paper.


Please include answers to all of the following questions in a document attachment to [email protected]. Write “COLUMNIST APPLICATION” as the subject and body of the email. (please use .doc or .pdf extension for full compatibility)


Presently a Sunnie? If so, in which department:

Application Questions:

  1. Extracurricular activities, membership and leadership positions (please list):
  2. Hobbies/Interests:
  3. If you could interview one person who would it be? What five questions would you ask them? (No presidents, former presidents, Deities or fictional characters please.)
  4. How would your column differ and what would it contribute to the current Opinion section (max. 200 words)?
  5. What question would you ask a potential columnist on an application?
  6. Please write a maximum of 500 words on one of the following statements:
    1. Cornell University’s Introduction to American History course should teach students that John F. Kennedy was the best president of the 20th century.
    2. Regardless of circumstance, Cornell University must expel all students caught for plagiarizing.
    3. The personal computer is the greatest human invention of all time.
    4. “Truth uncompromisingly told always has its ragged edges” – Melville
    5. All Cornellians are required to take a 1-credit course on personal finance.
    6. In effort to make Cornell more sustainable, the University should ban all disposable plastic water bottles.
    7. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are far superior to The Power Rangers.
    8. By the end of our lifetime, women will dominate all sectors of the American workforce.
    9. Executive bonuses highlight the unbridled greed that characterizes the American economy.
    10. Kurt Vonnegut is better than Aristotle.
    11. Some experts say it will take 35 years for the U.S. to recover from the current recession.
    12. The U.S. should make Spanish a second national language.
    13. The spelling womyn for the word woman is a useless attempt to bolster gender equality.
    14. In the arts, restraint is more important than virtuosity.
    15. President Barack Obama must cancel his plan to replace the White House bowling alley with a basketball court.
  7. Please submit two (2) previously unpublished sample columns (700-800 words). If you become a Sun columnist, these submissions may later be used as columns.