Over the past few weeks something has become apparent. We, as a nation, don’t understand the difference between news and editorials.
News reports are just that. They communicate to you the event that has occurred. A good news report will present the facts and only add information to put the event in context. For example, ‘Jane Crossed the Street’ is the headline and it describes the event. From the headline, you’ve got a pretty good feel for what happened. If you read the story it may include background information on Jane, which street she crossed and perhaps even the context of why that was a newsworthy event.
An editorial is someone’s opinion of the event. Those who write editorials are usually people uniquely qualified to comment on that type of event. But our free press means anyone can present an editorial on any topic. “Richard’s Point of View on Jane’s Street Crossing” would be an appropriate title for an editorial written by Richard about Jane crossing the street.
Since the advent of 24-hour cable news in 1980, there became a need to fill 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of TV with content. Thus the birth of ‘opinion shows’ that offered their opinions on the days events. They started innocently enough with panelists qualified on the topic offering their knowledgeable take on the event. ‘Jane Crossed the Street’ with the guy who built the street and the gal who decided to put a crosswalk there. These type of shows became far more popular because they were more interesting than repeating Jane’s street crossing endlessly.
Almost 40 years down the road we now have a culture of people watching ‘opinion shows’ that offer the opinion of the host or network and believing they are watching the news. ‘Did Jane Jaywalk While Crossing the Street?’
There are many ways to identify if you are getting the news or someone’s opinion on the news. The first and easiest is the name of the show. If the show is a person’s name then that show is that person’s opinion of the news. Another way is the emotional level of the presenter. If they are angry and using angry words to communicate a story to you, then you are watching an opinion show, not the news. Written news reports are easier to identify because editorials say clearly ‘Opinion or Editorial’ at the top of the story. Some written reports are from dubious sources. The easiest way to check them is to look at the history of the stories they report. If they are all about how Jane is a Jaywalker who crosses the street to take your money then you should know you are on a dubious site.
If you strongly disagree with someone’s opinion of the news you should create your own editorial to counter their point of view. Or you can even do what adults do when they disagree. Which is to politely turn the page to the next story and move on with your life.