An op-ed piece, short for "opposite the editorial page", derives its name from originally having appeared physically opposite of the editorial page in a newspaper. Today, the term is used more widely to represent a column that represents the strong, informed, and focused opinion of the writer on an issue of relevance to a targeted audience. It is a written prose piece which expresses the opinion of an author or entity with no affiliation with the publication's editorial board. The New York Times is often credited with developing and naming the modern op-ed page.
A theorized origin of the modern op-ed page is the "Page Op.," created in 1921 by Herbert Bayard Swope of The New York Evening World. When Swope took over as main editor in 1920, he opted to designate a page opposite letters from editorial staff as "a catchall for book reviews, society boilerplate, and obituaries". He wrote:
It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America ... and thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts.
With the development and availability of radio and television broadcasting as major information outlets, stakeholders and print journalism workers sought to increase or maintain their audience and relevance. According to the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post began including more opinionated journalism, adding more columns and increasing the extent of their opinion pages to drive public participation and readership.
The "modern" op-ed page was developed in 1970 under the direction of The New York Times editor John B. Oakes. The first op-ed page of The New York Times appeared on 21 September 1970. Media scholar Michael J. Socolow writes of Oakes' innovation:
The Times' effort synthesized various antecedents and editorial visions. Journalistic innovation is usually complex, and typically involves multiple external factors. The Times' op-ed page appeared in an era of democratizing cultural and political discourse and of economic distress for the company itself. The newspaper's executives developed a place for outside contributors with space reserved for sale at a premium rate for additional commentaries and other purposes.
The various connections between op-eds, editors, and funding from interest groups have raised concern. In 2011, in an open letter to The New York Times, a group of U.S. journalists and academics called for conflict of interest transparency in op-eds.