Tips on Covering Controversial Topics

I love me a good controversy to get the morning going. Dramas, controversies, hot button issues, kind of like horror movies stir up all kinds of emotions. Sounds great, why not bring that controversy to your blog? Well, it's hard to be controversial in real life. Ever try talking about politics or religion with a group of people? It's a rare occasion when it's done successfully. Some people have the gift, while others just come off annoying. It's hard to say how you feel about controversial topics gracefully.


From time to time, I've covered controversial topics on my blogs, from Occupy Wall Street, to Glorifying Smoking in Fashion, to exposing questionable practices in social networks. It's been scary to go out on a limb and talk about my opinions other than what pair of shoes I want at the moment. But in the end, I've found those posts to be profoundly satisfying.


How do you address a controversial topic on your blog?


Stick with the Facts

There's the old saying, “If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.” I tend to believe in the saying, “If you don't have anything nice to say, make damn well sure it's true.” First of all, there are libel laws that protect people and organizations from publishing untrue statements. You wouldn't want to get slapped with a lawsuit for publishing a statement you couldn't prove to be true.


By presenting facts, you allow the readers to form their own opinion. If you believe something is unjust, and it is unjust, presenting the facts will speak for themselves.


Give People a Chance to Defend Themselves BEFORE You Publish

You got a great scoop, and you're dying to share it with your readers. This is really juicy stuff! Hold your horses.. there is always another side to the story.


Always send an email to the party in question, and give them 24 hours to respond.


If you ask the person you're talking about for their side of the story, you'll get a greater understanding of what's happening. You might even get a second post, or third… out of a single controversy. Maybe there was no wrong committed, maybe your source was flawed. You never know unless you ask.


Get a Second Opinion

If one person told you their experience, that's one thing, but if two, three or more all experienced the same misdeed, this strengthens your case. If they say it's illegal? Consult an attorney who specializes in a topic. If they say “that's just the way it is” then consult with an expert in the field who knows how things go.


Look for similar things that have happened, maybe in another demographic, another country, another time and see how the issue was dealt with then.


It's always better to have more information and edit it out, than too little.


Share Your Personal Experience

No one can argue with your experience and how you fell about it. If you keep the conversation what you experienced, what emotions were brought up, then you can talk about something that disturbs you. You're not making any accusations, you're expressing your feelings about a topic. Make sure you stick to the facts, and that any speculation is clearly speculation. Make sure your readers know you are talking about your OPINION.


Use Good-Spirited Humor

I love humor, and often times wish I could be funny on command, but no… that doesn't happen. If I'm able to make fun of something in a way that's lovingly teasing, it's really great to share. There are very few people who can be mean and funny at the same time without offending. But if you're good at making fun with love… by all means try it! Your readers will enjoy it.


Run it By a Friend

You may be passionate about a subject, but can you be objective? Are you making sense? Are you too angry? A good friend will let you know if you've gone to far… or if you're not going far enough.


It's Important to Address Controversy

If something is bothering you, talk about it privately. If you have facts to present that support what's upsetting you then you should by all means, post about it. Life is amazing, but it's not all puppies and rainbows all the time. Sometimes we need to talk about the things that make us uncomfortable in order to make progress.


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7 Responses

  1. Liz

    Whenever I write controversial articles, I tend to then keep them as drafts because I chicken out of publishing them. The internet can be a scary place the wrong person comes across your post and boom, they’re harassing you, finding out where you live, etc. I’ve seen it happen and it makes me wary of publishing articles on certain topics.

    At the same time, the world isn’t all fashion and daises and sometimes you really just want to talk and discuss with your readers about what is going on in the world, affecting them and you. I think you have some great tips here, basically keeping it factual/newspaper like, running by another party. Maybe I’ll actually end up publishing some of my drafts!

  2. Madeleine Gallay

    This is a really important post. There are times when controversy pops up and making your personal reasoned voice heard matters. Not at the expense of another because most things are subjective.

    These are sketchy days dealing with it is part of what a blog can do from its perspective.

  3. Dignity Zine

    Great post and I agree with the sage advice not to get hysterical.

    I guess the whole reason I started Dignity Zine was to cause controversy in a way. I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines anymore when it came to the harmful messages in the fashion world and commercial media.

    I’ve had nothing but positive response so far, though I did have a very worried friend who cautioned me against calling out a large retailer for their use of sick skinny models.

    I’m definitely glad I pushed through and I’m proud of my body of work.

    Lesson learned: Don’t let irrational fear hold you back from standing up for what is right.

  4. creativefashionglee

    I agree with all the tips outlined above. There is a need to discuss controvercial topics which would otherwise become a norm. As long as there is personal attack and you keep objective in layering out the issue, it´s good enough. People will agree or disagree with you, but you´ve sparked a conversation and you´ve opened up some minds. I suggest doing a thorough research first, before you put that controvercial post online. 🙂

  5. WendyB

    Getting comments from the people you’re covering is definitely key. And everyone can use an editor! It’s good to have that second pair of eyes.

  6. Fabi

    Great post, thanks for the tips!

    I’ve always chickened out of blogging about shady political injustices and cynical acts of crime that happen constantly in my country. Maybe my fashion blog isn’t the place to do so, I’m afraid it would get shut down. A new blog, perhaps? Still debating on that…