Identify the viewpoint of news stories
Many news media give both facts and commentary. Audiences need both AND need to identify the difference between fact and opinion.
- Class discussion: Is there any way to give people the facts of an event or issue without a viewpoint coming through? Should reporters try to write an “objective” news story? Is there such a thing as “objectivity”?
- Further class discussion: If there not such a thing as “objectivity,” what should reporters strive for? Fairness? Balance? Pluralism? Neutrality? Many news organizations make distinctions between opinion pieces (sometimes grouping them on a specific opinion page) and general news reporting? Should there be those distinctions made, if ALL stories have some perspective?
- Student exercise: Compare the front pages of multiple newspapers (local/regional/national). Are the stories the same? Why or why not?
- Student exercise: Select a story in any section of the newspaper (news, sports, entertainment). Read the story. Underline the facts that the reporter mentions. Pay attention to whether a piece of information is truly a “fact” or is just something that is said by someone quoted in the story. (i.e “the president said” may be a “fact”–but what he said may be an opinion.)
- Follow-up exercise: Using the same story (or a different one from any section of the newspaper underline any words that suggest an opinion or a perspective by the reporter. Consider also the ordering of the information and what information is emphasized.
- Follow-up exercise: Take a look at one newspaper. Where have the editors decided to put various kinds of information? Is there a political news section and a sports section for instance? Is there a “news” section and an “opinion” section?
- Follow-up exercise: Are the opinion stories signed and identified or are they unsigned? Are you told any information about those who write the signed opinion pieces in the paper? Are you told about the political perspectives of the editors of the newspaper–the ones who write the unsigned opinion pieces?
- Small group project: Find two stories (in the news section) on the same subject in two different newspapers or different news outlets (i.e. online sources). What changes from one version to another? Is one more “factual” than the other? How do you decide that one is more based on facts
- Follow-up exercise: Find a story in one newspaper that is written about in the “news” section and also written about in the “opinion” section. Is there any difference? Do you learn different information? Is different language used? What’s the difference between telling someone the “facts” (what reporters call the “Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) and trying to convince that person of the meaning of those “facts”?