Journalism or Opinion?
In this article, I am not going to express political commentary for the sake of giving examples. Instead, I will focus on the issue directly, which is why people lose trust in journalism. And with that is the understanding of why people fall for fake news and how to recognize it.
There are many ways to interpret what people say. The most crucial thing to do is understand if it’s their biased opinion or if it’s factual.
Journalists need to confirm the credibility of their stories. Unfortunately, recently many news reporters who claim to be journalists are only giving their opinion on the topics they are reporting.
If we consider their opinion factual, we can easily be brainwashed into thinking what they or their company want us to believe.
Professional Journalists Are Credible
A professional journalist would cite credible sources when it’s necessary to clarify whether it’s merely their opinion or is indeed genuinely factual.
It would not be professional if they leave out crucial details, which they would do if they intend to report solely based on their agenda.
For that reason, people need to pay more attention to the intention of a news reporter so they can diligently determine the validity and value of the report.
The Destruction of Journalism
Fake news has already destroyed trust in journalism. Moreover, fake editorials portrayed as actual news can have a harmful effect on politics in our society.1
That’s why we need to recognize the difference between factual journalism and biased opinion.
Most media spokespersons only offer an opinion based on biased positions these days. Trust in journalism is destroyed when reporters only provide a narrow and limited view in an effort to avoid factual information that goes against their preferred viewpoint.
To achieve that, they offer little detail to support their personal views and leave out anything factual that interferes with their agenda.
Intelligent viewers have the resourcefulness to research the data for accuracy. However, some people tend to accept everything they hear.
How Are People Fooled?
Fake news is presented in the same way that cyber hackers create phishing scams. They write in such a way as to look realistic to fool people.
Sometimes it’s difficult to determine if you are being scammed. Anyone can be fooled, no matter how smart they are. In the instance of phony emails, here’s an example:
You receive a warning that your bank account has been overdrawn. The email asks you to log in to check your account, and they make it easy by giving you a link in the email.
The link looks legitimate, mainly because many people don’t know how Internet addresses (URLs) are structured. So you click the link and try to log in. Of course, it fails because it’s not the actual site, but the damage is done. You just gave away your login information to the hacker.
What does that have to do with fake news? It’s the same thing. It sounds legitimate. Unfortunately, many people don’t know where the information came from or how different it is from the truth. And they don’t know how to determine its accuracy.
Fake news spreads like wildfire from one friend to another, usually via social media.
A survey in mid-2022 by the Pew Research Center discovered that half of U.S. adults get their news from social media.2
One needs to ask, who is really benefitting? The viewer or the press?
My cyber hacker analogy is an excellent example. A hacker who sends scam emails will benefit when victims follow through with the instructions provided.
In addition, proficient hackers write code that propagates their emails from one computer to another. That makes their phishing emails look like they came from trusted friends, and one is more likely to fall for the scam.
The same is true of fake news. It spreads like wildfire from one friend to another. And the news media benefits from this by getting more viewers.
The appearance of information coming from supposedly trusted sources is overwhelming and believable. When people continue to hear the same fake news from many sources in their lives, and when trusted friends acknowledge it, the news becomes falsely genuine in their minds.
Citizen Journalists Are Not Professionals
In my research, I came upon the term “citizen journalist.” They are people just like you and me who might happen to be in a location where a newsworthy story is taking place. And since most of us have smartphones with cameras, we begin filming a video.
A citizen journalist will take it to the next level and post that video on social media with their own twist on the event to suit their personal beliefs or to stick with an agenda they prefer to spread around.
Unfortunately, these media posts spread misinformation when they only show selective parts of the whole story.3
How Can One Determine What’s Real?
To use my analogy once again with cyber-phishing attempts, specific features of a phishing email can include telltale signs, such as misspelled company names or poor arrangement of details. The accuracy of the data is the most important thing to investigate, such as where the URL would link to when you click on it.
Similarly, in the case of newscasts, careful examination of the details is crucial. If a viewer of news is vigilant, they can apply the same evaluation method to determine if news reports are fake or factual.
- Consider the details. Do the features of the story make sense?
- Consider the quality. Is there a possible cause for bias?
- Consider the connections. Does overbearing influence guide the reporter?
The credibility of the information can be challenging to determine, especially when it’s constructed well and seems revealing for the viewer’s benefit.
Stanford University conducted a study in 2020 that showed many college students had struggled to identify misinformation in news reports.4
The Effect of Opinionated Articles
When a writer is looking for ideas to write about, they usually have opinions they need to discuss. However, there are many reasons for refraining from writing controversial articles with personal opinions.
An author may feel uncomfortable writing about particular topics. Here are a few reasons:
- It may be painful.
- It may be embarrassing.
- It could be a touchy subject.
- It could start arguments.
I’ve noticed that controversial articles definitely get more readers. Introducing a personal slant about debatable issues, and expressing personal thoughts or feelings, can sometimes light a fire that causes people to want to engage. But is that valuable to the reader?
Writing Facts vs. Opinions
There is a difference, though, between writing about facts vs. opinions. The best controversial articles are the ones that expressly point to facts but then add a personal point of view. And honest journalists will clarify the difference so readers can judge for themselves.
A journalist’s job is to present the facts, and when they offer an interpretation, it must be done as objectively as possible.5
Those that are merely opinionated won’t get anywhere other than gathering arguments in comments. However, their article’s value will be recognized when they write from the heart and are truthful and accurate with facts.
They need to avoid prejudiced writing, which can be challenging when they favor specific political parties and leaders. But that’s why they need to be objective and cover stories honestly and openly.6
Those who fall for internet phishing scams could be the same people who believe fake news without taking the crucial step of analyzing the factual nature of the information. That’s my opinion!
Nevertheless, those who are vigilant tend to lose trust in journalism.
- Gabrielle Price. (April 15, 2019). “How Fake News is Negatively Impacting Journalism” | MediaMap Brisbane
- “Social Media and News Fact Sheet.” (September 20, 2022). | Pew Research Center
- Storyhunter. (November 15, 2016). “Why We Need Professional Journalism in the Age of Social Media.” Storyhunter Blog.
- Sam Wineburg, Joel Breakstone, Nadav Ziv, Mark Smith. (October 21, 2020). “Educating for Misunderstanding: How Approaches to Teaching Digital Literacy Make Students Susceptible to Scammers, Rogues, Bad Actors, and Hate Mongers” | Stanford Libraries
- Rizvi, I. (January 14, 2022). “What makes a Professional Identity of a Journalist” | Sociology Group.
- “What are the Qualities Required to Become a Good Journalist.” (Retrieved January 11, 2023). Ibuzzle.com
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2023 Glenn Stok