News…or opinion?

Let’s start this with a personal story. I’ll try to keep it brief. 😊

When I was six years old, I created my first newspaper. It was called The Fairfield Crud. (Don’t judge – I was six, okay?) It was a couple pages long and included a front page complete with a crayon “photo”, the TV guide (only CBS because it was the only network we got off our antenna back then) and a few news stories of current events. Current events in this six-year old’s life. Probably something like “my brother has measles”.

I spent the next number of years planning on a journalism career when I “grew up”.  I continued to write and in High School I worked on the school newspaper, the yearbook and had a wonderful semester writing a weekly personal column for our local newspaper. I found out how difficult that actually was! I had to have something to say, something to share, something that might be of interest to my readers. (And yes, I still have a copy of every one of those memorable columns!)

Then it was on to college – the University of Iowa. A journalism major. The beginning of the next step in my long-imagined career. And something happened. It doesn’t really matter how exactly the whole thing unraveled, but I started to realize this wasn’t what I wanted to do. As a young woman I have to say that realizing something I thought I had wanted almost my WHOLE LIFE wasn’t it after all was unbelievable. To say it was a shock to my system would be an understatement.

Let’s fast forward to today. I read and watch a lot of news. I try to look at multiple sources – there are so many now! At the time that I decided to not pursue a journalistic career there were basically two choices – print or TV. Television meant three networks. And all news was either local or national. National TV meant the networks. Three networks. The PBS News Hour didn’t exist yet.  Now? With cable and the internet, the world of reporting has EXPLODED! But how much is actual news and how much is opinion?  

I have no problem with opinion pieces. In fact, that’s what I write! That’s what this piece is! It’s when opinion replaces news that I think it’s a problem. Fact reporting. Not speculation or hearsay. Not how someone ‘feels’ about what is happening.  But apparently the “who, what, where, when, why” of things doesn’t sell advertising. Not for 24 hours a day anyway. So we get a LOT of opinion now. And depending on if you lean right or left there is a “news” channel for you. Those channels are more than happy to fill hours and hours of opinions that will probably support you in how you feel.  And the more you watch the more you’re convinced that you know the truth. But it may be their truth. Not necessarily the whole truth.

And that’s okay too. Until you find out that your news channel of choice isn’t giving you some of the news at all. If the story doesn’t fit their slant, they are likely going to ignore it or at the very least bury it too deep to find. Maybe they’ll just dismiss it out of hand even if there is evidence to the contrary. But who does that serve? Not knowing could mean that you’re being manipulated. You’re making decisions based on what the network wants you to know and believe.

So when does it cross the line? When is not reporting the news okay? How far can a network go before they are just putting out propaganda?  I’m not sure. But we may already be there.

One of my favorite talk radio stations has a motto that says: “If you agree with everything we report…then we’re not doing our job.” I couldn’t agree more.

So, go ahead and watch your favorite “news” channel. But look outside your comfort zone.  You may just get a perspective or some news you didn’t know about.

Knowledge is Power. Don’t just give it away.

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