Give Me The News, Not Your Opinion

newspapersBy. Chad-Cinque

Should investigative journalist be allowed to blog about the topic which they are investing?  This is particularly the case in one newspaper towns like Buffalo.

This question surfaced during a conversation between me and my dad about the One Sunset Restaurant scandal.  While devouring a couple of Wendy’s chicken sandwiches, my father questioned the credibility of the Buffalo News’s coverage of the story.

He said he had problems with the reporter covering and also blogging about the same topic.  In his view, blogging about a story you were also investigating blurred the line between “detached” reporting and opinion.  A news story is not a commentary.

Of course, most reporters blog, but that is not the question.  Should investigative reporters be allowed to blog about the story being investigated?   If reporter is investing corruption in a local bank, should that reporter be allowed to blog on the topic, before his or investigation is completed?

Should he or she offer their opinion about bank corruption, while they are still investigating the bank corruption, or should they be forced to wait until their investigation of the issue is completed and their “detached” stories on the subject are written?

The conversation with dad made me think of another, perhaps more intriguing question, Can people trust a supposedly “detached” and “unbiased” article when they know the reporters stance on the story.

Let me put it another way, I write a series on the corruption of a local bank president.  Before the series is over, I write a blog discussing my hatred for corrupt bankers.  Can you trust my story?

You can’t and you should not have to try.   Newspapers have the responsibility to bring you the news, not their opinion of the news.  The reason is that newspapers have the power to make you think about stories in a particular way.

Newspapers and reporters are the shapers of public opinion.  When reporters tell a story, they are also telling people how to think about that story, how to look at the issue.

So, there should be a clear separation between reporting and commenting…

This is especially true in one newspaper towns, where there is only one source and outlet of print news.   In these places, reporters have a very special responsibility to keep their opinions separate from the news.

My brother, who is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, says reporting is changing.  Today, reporters are asked to breakdown and analyze a story, not just tell the facts and timelines.

Cool.

But analyzing is not commenting. Analyzing can still be “detached” and offer a balanced view.  Commentaries, on the other hand, are about presenting your viewpoint in the most persuasive and provocative way.

Bottom-line.

Investigative reporters should investigate. Not blog.

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2 responses to “Give Me The News, Not Your Opinion

  1. Great post, Chad. The topic, anyway.
    Content: 4 This is a HUGE debate in the journalism community. People are blogging like crazy about it. It would be a perfect topic for in-class discussion. Feel free to bring it up.

    It is a tough call. In many ways you are right. Newspapers have traditionally kept opinion and editorial separate. But more and more, they are merging. Many believe there is no such thing as objectivity. They say, no matter how hard you try, your viewpoint will influence the story. So why even aim/pretend to be objective?

    Some argue that reporters need a place to talk about info they don’t print in regular news articles. So they blog. Have a look at Jim Heaney’s blog on the Buffalo News. He walks the line.

    Links: 2 No more links to your family. I’ve seen them already. What you might link to here are reporters who are using blogs to comment on stories. Some do it well, others poorly. That would get my attention.

    Grammar: 1 You are making lots of grammatical errors. In some cases (confusion between investing and investigating) I think you are being careless. Talk to me if you want to review the post line by line for errors.

  2. Interesting topic but why do you or we as a society assume that the media and reporters are non-biased anyway? The news is completely biased regardless of whether or not a particular reporter is blogging. Do you ever ask yourself why on all the cable news outlets do they always have former generals as their war experts? Why do they never ask Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn to come on the news and talk about the wars we are currently involved in? Its because NBC as an example is owned by General Electric which also happens to make things for the war in Iraq. they have an investment in the war so they are not really interested in profiling anti war positions. They are biased. In the print media newspapers are reliant on advertiser dollars to stay economically afloat–thus the chances of a newsppaer being controversial and risking alienating their newspaper base is quite small–it affects the stories that are run. The media is rife with bias.

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