By Gery L. Deer
Deer In Headlines
For reasons I still can’t totally understand, many people insist on believing whatever they read on a printed (or digital) page, regardless of how inane or baseless the material may seem. Generally the topic or tone falls in line with the reader’s interests or personal opinions and if it strikes them just the right way they fall for it, bait, hook and headline.
For example, while I appreciate the loyalty of my readers, I always encourage them to explore for themselves whatever topics I present and not simply take my word for it. An op-ed (opinion-editorial) column like mine offers one or two viewpoints about a particular topic but always has a ‘slant’ to it. For the author, the column can serve several purposes.
Some op-ed columnists are simply trying to put a voice to a particular viewpoint and provide food for thought to the reader. Others are doing everything they can to sway public opinion, by whatever means available to them, even by misrepresenting the facts.
Talk radio personalities and television news commentators offer the broadcast version of a written editorial column, usually with a much wider reach and, thus, a larger audience. Broadcast celebrity opinionists (my word for them) have one goal which is to please the advertisers by increasing ratings.
Banging on the desk and yelling, playing sound bites out of context and using as much spin as possible, these over paid blowhards ply the mushy brains of audiences with a lot of self-appointed authority. That authority is false but accepted by the masses, leaving them unable to tell the difference between fact and sensationalism.
Eventually, the Internet provided yet another outlet as audiences took to the computer screen for their news and information. So much pseudo-journalism has flooded the web that many now question the legitimacy and accuracy, not to mention the political slant, of modern news agencies. Take blogs for example.
The word blog is a shortened form of web log. Blogging started out simply enough as the ramblings of disgruntled workers or bored housewives who found an audience for their personal diatribes in the vast wasteland of the information superhighway. Over time, the number of blog followers has begun to surpass broadcast news and print journalism.
Depending on the content, a blog can attract millions of readers worldwide. According to the website InitialTraffic.com, the official blog of The Huffington Post was the most visited blog website of 2011 citing millions of hits for the publication. Other blogs have become mainstream resources, having transformed from op-ed material to news and video content.
Competition for subscribers and high-volume audiences is fierce between media outlets and some will do whatever it takes to keep advertising and subscription revenue coming in. It’s important that readers know the difference between opinion, editorial, news and sensationalist content. But how do you tell the difference?
An article or broadcast story that can be considered ‘news’ will provide the reader with the who, what, why, when and how of a topic, giving you the information without commentary or speculation. An opinion or editorial piece will include conjecture or literally offer the writer’s views in an attempt to slant the story or alter public perception of the topic.
In my columns, I generally cite the facts of a current event, a quote by a politician (in its entirety, so the context is clear), express the concerns of fellow citizens or I will base the work on a historical reference of some kind. The idea is to provide the solid, factual basis for whatever argument I wish to make.
For all of the chatter online, on television and on the radio, your local newspaper, in my opinion, is still your best bet for accurate news coverage regarding events immediately affecting you and your family. Online or in print, it offers a ground-level look at the day-to-day happenings without the ‘noise.’ Whatever your choice for news and commentary, be an informed reader.
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