TechCrunch had a good post today on how there needs to be more room for opinion in news reporting (“We Need More Opinions in News, Not Less,” TechCrunch, 8 July 2010). A few thoughts.
Other Publications are Already Doing It
It might be good to take a cue from publications like the Economist. I quite appreciate when they put opinion into their reporting. They usually identify their stance within the first two paragraphs – “It’s the opinion of this magazine that…..” – and then they continue reporting.
Get the Juices Flowing for a Better World View
When I get hit with opinion, I welcome it. It offers the reader an immediate starting point and helps them identify where the reporter is coming from. All the complaints about the difficulty for the lay reader of filtering news content, and such and such a publication or newscast being biased. This is actually a perfect way to give the reader their own filter before they start reading. “Ok, I’m reading something from an author who has this lens on. Therefore, what I hear may be affected by that.”
In my opinion, this opens the door for much more robust thought processes and discussions on the events and issues happening around us.
Note: This may not be entirely fair or realistic, as I’m trained to do the above, and many people haven’t had that opportunity and may not know to apply this filtering process. All the more reason to be blatant about where the opinion is, and then offering them opportunity to think further about it in their mind.
Be a Good Professor
I’ve been through my fair share of education – one undergraduate and two graduate programs – and I think the best professors I’ve had have been those that can clearly and comfortably state “what side” they’re on, get the facts out, and encourage us to think further – in whatever direction – about what we’re learning. They’ve pushed their students past the point of consumption, memorization etc, and really gotten them analyzing, having meaningful conversation and getting to the meat of things, while still being able to convey “just the facts.” I don’t think they could have accomplished all of that if they kept all opinion out, both theirs and ours. They allowed room for opinion in a forum that was meant to inform people about what’s happening around them, and the experience and takeaways were much more valuable because they did that.
Keep Op-Ed and Editorials Where They Are
Should journalism turn into opinion writing? No, it shouldn’t. Opinion pieces – which usually contain a smaller number of hand-picked facts amidst the opinion – should stay opinion pieces. If you muddle opinion too much, you start losing the facts.
But there should be room for opinion. It forces thinking and opens viewpoints. So bring it.