Think Before You Judge: Differentiating News from Editorials

Do yourself a favor, readers: distinguish between news and editorial.

Take time to figure out which it is you’re reading. Don’t take someone else’s opinion as fact just because you read it in newsprint or listened to a commentator say something on TV. By the same token, don’t condemn a news organization for its “liberal bias” because you read an editorial that you thought was the news.

What you’re reading, at this very moment, is an editorial, an opinion. You’re reading it in a special section marked “Opinion.” So when you read these words and the other stories on this page, don’t get confused into thinking this is news.

There may be a topic pertinent to the news discussed—sometimes, news outlets do have an opinion on the news. In fact, news events are often the subject of opinion pieces. It’s what makes them interesting.

Examples of publications writing their opinion on the news, as well as the news itself, can be found everywhere, even in this paper. If you read this paper often, you may remember some stories earlier this semester about a video of sorority sisters doing pushups. This story was newsworthy because many people thought the video depicted a hazing ritual or that it violated UCA’s hazing policy.

You may recall that there were two articles focusing on that video: one was a news story, and one was an opinion piece. The news story presented the facts of the situation, while the opinion piece expressed the way The Echo editorial staff felt about what happened.

Some who read the article accused us of bias or of conflating news and opinion. But the writers of that news article were very careful to stay apart from the events in the story—and why bother obscuring the facts with opinion? An opinion article about the situation was already going to be written. There was no need to write that opinion twice. There was all the more need to keep the two articles separate.

I think some people were confused because there were two articles, one news and one opinion. Maybe some people read only the opinion piece and thought it was the news. In that case, it’s not surprising that they would see our paper as biased.

I use this example not to complain about the way some people see our paper or to complain about the responses we received from those articles. I’m merely attempting to illustrate how misleading it can be to consume media without pausing to check if the words you’re reading are meant to be impartial or meant to be opinion.

So next time you’re watching Fox News or MSNBC, ask yourself: Is this the news that I’m watching? Or someone else’s take on the news? Am I getting the facts of the situation, or only seeing a side that the speaker wants me to see?

If you can apply critical thinking to your news consumption and be aware of what you’re reading and watching, you’ll become a better-informed citizen. You’ll be able to form your own opinion on important issues instead of parroting someone else’s.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2015 print edition of The Echo. 

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