In order for a citizen to make informed decisions, it’s critical to understand the difference between news and opinion. The unsuspecting news consumer could easily be confused by the two. Some news and media organizations have clear designations between the two, while others don’t. News is an objective process; opinion is subjective.
News is the reporting of objective, fact-based information by journalists. They investigate a story using tried and true methods –citing public records and documents, interviewing persons relevant to the story, and corroborating the facts between their sources, among other processes. Once enough information is gathered, a news story is produced. The report is then scrutinized editors and by a fact-checking process. When a story is green lit, it’s then released to the public.
While the vast majority of news stories are factually solid, journalists aren’t immune to making the occasional mistake. If a mistake is made, a correction or retraction is published to reconcile the integrity of the reporting.
Opinion is a subjective interpretation of a particular story or topic. The opinion piece is produced by someone knowledgeable of the story or topic. In print media, it’s typically done through columnists, editorial boards, and Op-Ed (i.e. opinion editorial) contributors. Newspapers clearly identify the opinion section, ensuring the reader doesn’t confuse an opinion article for a news article.
On television news, the line between news and opinion can be blurry, sometimes very blurry. It’s very easy for the uninformed news consumer to mistake an opinion show for a news program. The viewer tunes into a “news” channel, sees an anchor, and then assumes they’re receiving a rundown of cold-hard facts. Some shows are entirely opinion-based –taking current events and then sermonizing on them through the lens of their own worldview. Other shows have a mixed format: an anchor will report on a fact-based, objective subject, but then turn to a panel of pundits (e.g. analysts, experts) to share their personal opinions on a story.
The difference between news and opinion
It’s incredibly important to understand the difference between news and opinion when consuming media. If someone doesn’t understand the difference, it could potentially lead to becoming misinformed. For example, watching a strictly opinion-based show doesn’t necessarily give the consumer all of the relevant facts. It’s as if you’re listening to a one-sided debate, but never getting the opportunity to hear the other side of the debate. This is akin to reading a review of a horror movie by someone who detests horror movies. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to walk away with a well-rounded review.
The best approach to truly understanding a story is to always start with the news. The news will give you the facts, the context, and any other relevant information required to understand a story. Moreover, it’s always a healthy practice to use more than one news source. From there, you can then –based on the facts– form your own opinion. If you want dive deeper into a story, you could read or listen to qualified pundits to find out their take.
It’s important to remember that we’re all entitled to our own opinions, but we’re never entitled to our own facts.
Note: this article was edited for grammar, as well as providing some additional content.