Fact, Opinion Or Fiction?

Identifying Ethical Reporting In Modern Journalism

At Lynn University it is expected that all Fighting Knights can determine fact from fiction. The rest of the world is no different. With media and publications showing up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere imaginable, it can be difficult to determine which articles incorporate ethical reporting and which articles do not. 

Ethical reporting involves verifying facts with numerous sources and following up on every detail no matter how small. 

“To me, ethical journalism means that the source of information is independently verifiable, reliable, and reputable, and it helps if the journalist has some proven expertise, or access to expertise, in the subject,” said Stacy Alesi, Lynn librarian. 

When there is a race to get the news to the reader before competing media outlets, many news organizations disregard fact verification in favor of profits. This is a basic guide to help readers determine which media outlets and consequent publications utilize ethical reporting.  The first thing to look at when reading media from any source is the sub-headline. 

A sub-headline signals to the reader whether an article is an opinion, an editorial, hard news coverage or something else entirely. If an article is labeled as an opinion piece, then it is exactly that: someone’s opinion. 

Some opinion pieces are worth reading if the author is a well-respected authority on the topic. However, bear in mind that the opinions of the author are not always a representation of the facts even if the author presents them as such. 

Actual hard news may not be labeled at all. If there is no discernable label for what seems like a hard news article, look for the author’s name and position description. The position description could read something like: “This article was written by Jane Doe, reporting for the New York Times in Kabul.” 

That description would indicate that the article was written by a reporter working for the New York Times in Kabul, Afghanistan and provide contextualization as to whether or not the author is credible based on the topic area of the article. 

Read the sub-headlines first. Figure out who wrote the article and who it was written for. Watch out for articles without a specified author and un-cited sources, and, most importantly, ask this question: is this fact, opinion or fiction altogether?

“There’s going to be something we’re going to miss in journalism that will be very regrettable. I hope the young people who have developed Facebook and Google will say, ‘We need to fix the information system, and we need to get information to people that’s well-researched and investigated,’” said Bob Woodward, an American investigative journalist, to Poynter reporter Mallary Jean Tenore.

For more information about trusted sources and how to determine fact from fiction, consult the Lynn librarians  or research ethical sources. 

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