The Value of Reporting on Political Issues

The Value of Reporting on Political Issues

News, when spoken by an individual, is any piece of information that reinforces current events. When a human bites someone that’s not news, although when a human bites a non-human, that news is what someone else wants to bury. (Charles Anderson, American journalist, 1800- 1897) While we can’t always control what is said about us, we can be aware and watch for anything that might be deemed unfair, derogatory, inflammatory or embarrassing. When it comes to the media, any story that gets extensive play on cable and satellite stations reaches thousands of people.

This raises a basic question: Are journalists fair to their sources or not? The media has come under fire in the past for not distinguishing between news and opinion, which are fair to both sides. When a reporter has strong feelings about a public figure or political debate topic, he or she may express those opinions, but does this necessarily translate into foul play? Reporting on public figures, especially celebrities, can be inflammatory when they go out of line. There was an expose on Fox News last year that was condemned on all social media platforms and even led to advertiser pull their ads from the network.

The real test of a journalist’s objectivity is when he or she chooses not to cover something. If a journalist refuses to report on something because it doesn’t fit the predetermined agenda, then that’s reported as “an opinion”. Objectivity means looking at the subject and trying to get inside the mind of the person being reported about. Reporting that a particular celebrity had a strong reaction about the Cheilitis outbreak could be considered objectivity, but if the journalist doesn’t say it’s a positive thing that happened because it challenged his or her own objectivity, it’s news. Unfortunately, many in the public square will call something a “news” story because it confirms what they already believe.

In the case of this particular story, I wrote that it was a bad story that was going to make the local news, because it confirmed that the local politician had been attacking his own party. This made news because it showed how fragile and fallible a human opinion can be. And because the story was from a local news source, CNN, picked up the story, published it and gave it prominent billing. This reinforces the point of why objectivity means nothing in the field of journalism. If you don’t mind calling something a “bunch of garbage” or you don’t mind giving someone’s political views, you have a solid reporting career.

But when you give your opinion about something, whether it’s good or bad, you have to make sure you don’t castigate a person without basis. If you do that, you destroy the credibility of your work as a journalist because it looks bad for the company you’re representing when you make news out of it. It doesn’t make news; it makes opinions. And when you make opinions out of news, you destroy the news value and the trust readers have in sources.

News organizations are in the business of creating the news. That’s why they employ reporters and editors with an exceptional ability to gather and report the news with an emphasis on objectivity. But news organizations are also in the business of building relationships with their viewers and readers. So, even if you disagree with a reporter’s point of view or they have an entirely different political point of view, it’s important to remember that they work for a company that pays them and they should be able to work with you. Remember: objectivity in journalism is rare, especially when it affects the public’s perception of a company.