Monday, September 13, 2010

To Have Or Not Have an Opinion?

Fox29 has a new format for their 10:00 pm newscast and it has invited criticism from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Inquirer interviewed journalism educators and journalists about Fox29's new opinion and commentary initiatives that have become the focus of the show. Even the journalists who are reporting breaking news are asked for their opinions.

"We're saying if you're going to report a story, you had better know that story inside and out, and push back when people aren't telling you the truth," the news director told the Inquirer. "We'll stick with stories longer. We'll do fewer of them but report them in greater detail."

The news director and other Fox29 folks rationalize the move by saying that they need to be different from the other broadcast news outlets in town.

The Inquirer article alludes to editorializing, pandering and populist boostering.

At the same time Fox29 is being slammed for having an opinion, Jon Stewart is praised for having one.

Is Fox29 doing anything wrong? Aren't they asking their reporters to do what magazine article writers have been doing for decades?

What should news operations be doing?

(by the way, this is re-posted from the Entrepreneurial Journalists of Philadelphia blog)


Mark Longacre said...

When one tunes in to Jon Stewart, he knows that Stewart's opinion is going to be all over every story. While I personally don't watch the show, those who do know the information is given with an opinion. However Fox news, a local TV station, has consistently given straight news and then allowed their viewers to form opinions. If they had started out giving opinions and the news, I don't see there being a problem. However, they cannot being one way and then go to the completely other side of the fence.

Madeline Bates said...

Stewart has a show on Comedy Central that's advertised as political satire and a clearly opinionated program. Fox News constantly argues that they are a legitimate source of news that is unbiased. To compare the two shows is impossible because they are so clearly different.
Fox News has a responsibility to the public to report what they so consistently try to label as "fair and balanced." To put in the opinion of their conservative organization is to effectively forfeit any ounce of credibility they might have had left.
To be clear, I'm not saying that it's wrong for those men and women to have those opinions, or even that it's wrong for them to broadcast them on television. But it is wrong for them to do so on a program that's supposed to report fact and news so that the public may form their opinions for themselves.

Alexis Wright-Whitley said...

John Stewart can't be compared to Fox29. He has a show on Comedy Central, so for that, I don't really take all of his material seriously; also, Fox29 has always been about straight news. I don't see why there would be a need to include opinion. If I wanted that, I would tune in and watch Stewart, but that's not what most people want. Many don't even really care about what the reporters think. I don't see what beneficial effect it has.
Also, magazine writing is very different than news writing. I would almost always expect opinions from reading articles in a magazine, but not from watching the news about the teenage boy that got shot at 2 o'clock in the morning. Why should I care what Althea Paul thinks about the matter. I just care about the story.

Kelly Offner said...

I think the comparison of Jon Stewart to the Fox29 case is a poorly chosen one (sorry, EJP blog), but it hovers around the right idea.
I think a better comparison could be against SportsCenter, a channel which is notorious for reporting all sports-related news, and also a channel that many turn to for the big stories/plays/games of the day. While Sportscenter portrays itself to be a source for reliable and concise sports-news (which I find is the case), the show also invites individual, and often times opinionated, commentary from their own reporters. I actually think this aspect of the show separates it from other sports news programs because once the show ends, I find myself feeling more confident talking about a particular player or game because I can reference back to the arguments made by anchors.
...I think it is too soon to tell whether this will be the case for Fox29. One thing for sure is that those reporters better make sure they've got all angles of their "opinions" covered, because their station is, afterall, a local news source.

Arielle Arlan said...

Jon Stewart's show is all about political commentary. It's his job to give his opinion on the happenings of the political world at that moment in time. FOX29 is a local news station. Yes, they do report on a few national events (like the war on terrorism), but their main job is to report the news on the local level. They're there to report facts. They should keep the commentary for Stewart, Colbert, and O'Riley.

Emily O'Neill said...

While watching Jon Stewart, you expect to hear his opinion on the news, it's what attracts his viewers. They are tuning in to hear his comedic take on the events in the news. The audience of Fox29 news, however, is watching simply to receive the facts of a story, without hearing about one opinion or another. They want the facts in a quick, no-nonsense sort of way so that they can receive the information and then get on with their day. Stewart and Fox29 are two different types of media with audiences who watch either one for a reason. Fox29 should continue reporting without commentary to hinder any distractions from the news that they are telling and to keep their audience.

Janita Styles said...

Fox 29 local needs to think about the impact they will have on their viewers if they move away from "News" opinons are important but it is all about presentation and delivery. If people want to watch opinons they will tune into Jon Stewart and Anderson Cooper. The local fox channel is also home to Good Day Philadelphia their morning show that features news, sports, entertainment, and opinons. They do not need opinons in the morning and the night.

Adrianne Ranck said...

Is it not true that no matter how the media chooses to relay news, either objectivly or conceitedly, the public is never going to be completely satisfied and will always find a reason to feel slighted or offended?

Geo said...


I'm offended by your comment about the public being so easily offended.

- George
(the teacher is isn't really offended)

Jonathan Ristaino said...

I think it is a good idea. The majority of the time I already know the news/facts of a story before it gets to the TV. Either from my cell phone or the internet. Fox 29 recognizes this and is simply trying a new approach at news and pulling in new viewers. Rarely do we get commentary on local issues, this may spark more involvement from the community, especially if they get heated about issues.

Sean Carlin said...

I like Fox 29's new approach because it invites viewers into an open forum of commentary and debate. The problem with their 10 o'clock broadcast is that it mixes hard news with opinions. Fox's broadcast is an hour long and what they should do is devote the first half hour to traditional hard news, which should be clearly labeled news, and the bottom of the hour to opinion, which should be clearly labeled opinion.

Adrianne Ranck said...

Prof Geo,
What if I had said, It is true that no matter how the media chooses to relay information, either objectively or conceitedly, the public will NEVER be completely satisfied and will ALWAYS find a reason to feel slighted or offended?
...Oh wait, now it's too conceited right?

Geo said...

I am now offended that you are offended by my joke about being offended by your previous comment about people becoming easily offended.

But you are right ... someone will always be offended by something. If we all agreed on everything (or even one thing), the world would be pretty damn boring.

- George
(the teacher who isn't really offended)

Alison Curran said...

there are all these different news stations that are all on at the same time, most reporting the same stories just in different ways. this station is putting a spin on the stories that are occurring. i know that when i hear a news story or read it somewhere i have my own opinion running through my head and sometimes i do inquire about the people who are informing us about these stories. they sit there and they read script, that was written out for them, about a story, but how do they feel about it. i think is this a good way to see how these news casters feel about different stories.

if people don't care about what the news reports opinions are, then don't watch it. people are entitled to voice their own opinions, if someone doesn't like it then don't watch it.

Dana Dever said...

I think that it's ok for someone like Jon Stewart to have opinions on the issues he's reporting on because that's what he's paid to do. The anchors on the local & even national news are paid to just deliever the news, opinion free. Yes, the stories are going to be biased based on the station and their views on particular situations but no one can really stop that. If I want to watch a show like Jon Stewart's, I'll watch it. However, if I want factual news stories without any unnecessary commentary added in, I should be able to watch the local or national news.