This is an opinion piece, a written expression of the opinions I hold as an independently thinking human being who lives in the community in which this newspaper is published and promoted.
This is not a news report. I repeat, this is not a report of an event that has taken place.
However, in this opinion piece, I may utilize news reports to form my personal opinion and subsequently express those opinions here in this collection of thought.
I write this clarification because there seems to be some confusion on the subject of opinion versus reporting, and for me at least, it is a major issue in our society.
What people hear and see on cable television “news” (quotes intended) channels is often misconstrued and has – I am not sure if you’ve noticed – become a bit of an issue when it comes to delineating between what is a report and what is opinion, spin or punditry.
Here is where I think it’s all gone wrong.
There’s a football game happening at a local high school. The game ends in a 34-24 win for the home team. The newspaper reports the score, who scored, quotes from the players and coaches of the winning team.
All things included in the report of the game are accurate, down to the last yard, down the quotes that came out of the mouths of the coaches and players. All accurate.
But Tommy Football Fan sitting in the stands saw the game differently. From where he was sitting, the home team didn’t so much win the game as the visiting team lost the game.
You see, the visiting team’s quarterback threw three interceptions, two in the fourth quarter and the visiting team’s defense didn’t do enough to stop the home team from scoring.
Tommy Football Fan was rooting for the visiting squad. And Tommy Football Fan has a vested interest in espousing his view of how the game came to the result it did.
Tommy Football Fan thinks the newspaper’s account of the game should include that critical analysis and complains and writes a letter to the editor for publication in said newspaper.
Is Tommy Football Fan wrong in his viewpoint? Likely not.
But what Tommy Football Fan is seemingly uneducated about is the role of the journalist covering the game. Their job is to report the facts of the game. That person is ethically restricted from critically analyzing the game.
Tommy Football Fan has no such responsibility toward maintaining ethics.
When the visiting team’s head coach said, “I think our quarterback played a great game today,” the reporter writes that.
And Tommy Football Fan can take a critical stance in saying, “Obviously the coach would say that, he wants to keep his player’s confidence high, but clearly the quarterback’s play was terrible.”
Is he right?
Probably not. His viewpoint is personal, emotional and – here it comes – biased.
As the quarterback made his passes to his receivers, could it be, might it be, that the defensive players that intercepted the passes made outstanding plays to come up with the interception? Could be, right?
But how would Tommy Football Fan see it that way? He can’t.
And here we are.
When a national figure is quoted, verbatim, about an issue of national significance, that is an accurate report by the journalist covering the story.
Whatever, whatever, whatever comes next in the written piece, televised broadcast or radio broadcast will go one of two ways: It will present an opposing view from someone with a differing view of the issue or context in an effort to present a true representation of what was said or it will present critical analysis, spin or opinion of the quote.
That’s how you know whether a story is being reported or a story is being opined on.
The likes of Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh and Anderson Cooper are political pundits. They are not reporters or journalists when they are sitting in a punditry position. It is their job to be entertaining and present a program that will be entertaining to their viewers or listener base.
It is their job to take a quote from a political leader and inject their opinion of what the leader was saying.
That’s bias. That’s opinion. That’s not reporting. That’s not news; it’s opinion.
Unfortunately, the invent of blogs and stated bias agenda “reporting” has further muddied the waters. The phrase, “consider the source” is a good example of this idea.
For instance, the Heritage Foundation, which has a mission statement that leads with, “The mission of The Heritage Foundation is to formulate and promote conservative public policies…” owns the Daily Signal which purports to be a “news” organization.
That’s bias in their approach to each and every story. There is a stated end goal.
Ultimately, each person has a responsibility to delineate between a report and an opinion. The readers, the viewers must be able to take the facts as presented and determine for themselves their own stance on what was said.
Allowing others to decipher or explain what the quote means leaves you open to influence and bias. Of course, you can choose to absorb information that way, but please don’t present those opinions as fact or a report without sharing the bias that lies in the background of your presentation.
That’s how misinformation is spread.