It should be obvious to those who pause to consider this; that truth doesn’t have a side. Truth is simply “the truth” – that which is factual, verified, evidential and recognized as “what actually happened or that which is happening before our eyes.” But lately, various entities including social media, foreign influencers, even major political parties, have played fast and loose with information, blurring the lines between what is actually truthful information and what is wishful thinking, or downright dis-information.
It’s as if we are all in some sort of reality show – which we know, or should know – are the opposite of real. This takes on greater significance as the U.S. Senate prepares to begin the impeachment hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
In the case of news media, whether it be digital, broadcast or traditional print media, consumers of news should know that there is a major difference between a news story and an opinion piece.
A news story is based upon facts and verified information – what happened? When did it happen? How did it happen? Who did it happen to? Why did it happen? What do those involved say happened, and what do they think is going to happen next? This is information tied to actual news sources; police records, accident reports, surveys, municipal actions, verifiable events, verifiable sources, witnesses who were there, quotes from the people who are the subject of the story.
Opinion is just that – an opinion about what happened, or is happening, or what is about to happen. It may or may not be based upon facts, although in the case of AVV, our infrequent “Our Voice” opinions are based upon factual information. While letters to the editor are also opinion, AVV requires that any claims made in those letters provide substantiation for those claims. We do our best to assure that what is being presented is based on truth, or it doesn’t run.
One comment Ark Valley Voice has received a couple of times since our launch in March 2018 is — ‘Why don’t you include the other side?’ The answer is, we usually do. But we delineate between presenting facts which are news, versus presenting opinions as if the opinions are facts.
There are implications of news stories: what does it mean? Who is to blame? Who will it impact? What solutions are in process? This is where the writer, the columnist, the editorial board, has to make a decision: what constitutes the actual news story – and what begins to verge into opinion about what happened?
There is nothing wrong with news media offering opinions (we are, after all, immersed in the events shaping our towns and cities, our counties, our state, our nation and our world), as long as we tell you that they are opinions. We do it periodically in our editorial section known as “Our Voice”.
Our few columnists provide their opinions in select columns that run periodically. We occasionally post guest Op-ed pieces from knowledgeable experts in topics that impact our world. But they are clearly identified as opinions.
It’s where opinions are being presented as “that which must be true” that news organizations need to clarify the difference. Let AVV give readers an example. Take the case of the looming effects of climate change; “the darn-scary evidence happening right before our eyes,” to which we are all actual witnesses.
To the question “Is there a link between climate change and the increasing likelihood of extreme climate events like wildfires, droughts and torrential rain events?” we would reference the facts based on the latest climate study sources, because these are valid information sources.We would provide factual examples of those changes as reported in our fellow news sources and occurring locally.
As scientists have identified the causes, many of which are human-caused, we would point out the changes the experts predict, and if they suggest solutions, we would source that as well.
We would also note that there remain those who doubt the scientific facts, who still hold to their belief that what we are experiencing is merely periodic fluctuations in weather patterns and not a profound climate change that will affect virtually every facet of our lives in the coming decades. If there are sources for that denial of climate change, we would probably include one or more.
But unless those sources are based on fact, we aren’t going to call them that. It is not the job of the factual news media to make the case for climate change denial. Or… as a fellow journalist wrote this past weekend:
“Note to fellow journalists: “If someone says it’s raining and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out of the f**king window and find out which is true.” -Jonathan Foster