Just the Facts, Jack

Do you watch the news, ready the paper, and maybe follow news alerts like I do?

As a freelance photo-journalist and as a person who’s been an adult for longer than I’ve been a child, I can tell you this:

The media is biased.

The most even-handed publications show bias in what they choose to cover and what they choose to leave out. News organizations recycle old news for new viewers.

For example, did you know that an entire county in Michigan burned to the ground the same day of the The Great Chicago Fire?  Unless you’re from Michigan, and maybe even then, you didn’t know that 1.2 million acres of land burned, destroying homes, crops, and virgin timber.  The Great Michigan Fire  destroyed all but a few acres in Huron County. This didn’t hit the national news because the fire was so extensive, it destroyed communications lines, making it impossible to get the word out.

Did you know that the country’s deadliest school massacre was in 1927? Not Columbine or Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook. And  the killing was politically motivated. The perpetrator was angry about school taxes.

The news is opinionated.

I remember when my grandpa yelled at Huntley and Brinkley.  “Just tell us the news, and stop giving your opinion,” he shouted at the TV in disgust.



That’s why I like to read and watch from a variety of sources.  This started when I had a long commute.  I switched between the “Right” talk shows, Christian Radio, “Left” talk shows, and NPR.  The same stories got covered in slightly different ways.  Opinion vs facts seemed clear.

I do the same type of thing, although now, I work from home, so I rely on various types of print, cable TV, and on-line news media.

Are you bothered by the blurring of fact and opinion like I am? Even when commentators say “I think,” “I believe,” or “I feel” if it’s said enough we begin to think of it as fact?  That’s just the way the brain is wired.

Here’s a reminder sheet from Globalcitizen.com to help us assess what we hear and see, and perhaps question what’s left out of the media.

Advise to legitimate news outlets in 6 easy steps

State the facts as facts;

State your sources;

State how you know the sources are credible.

State how you verified the facts. (This is especially important when sources need to be protected.)

State your conclusions.

Explain the critical thinking steps when voicing opinion.

I’m happy to hear that schools teach Critical Thinking in elementary school. In today’s world of alternative facts, opinions, and hyperbole, we need this ability more than ever.  And we need it from our media.

Here’s a worksheet template anyone can use.

O.R.E.O:  Opinion, Reason, Example, Opinion.

(Have a cookie, you did a good job.)

[tweetthis]If it works for a primary school child, it should be easy for Fox News, CNN, CNBC, and any other news outlet.[/tweetthis]


I blurred some of the text of my young friends works, to protect his identity.


With a few tools and the public holding journalists to account, maybe these taglines from print and cable news outlet will live up to their claim:

A Free press Doesn’t Mean It’s Not a Tame Press.
All the News That’s Fit to Print.
Start Here.
Be Part of It.
Stories That Matter.
If It Matters To You, It Matters To Us.
There’s nothing more valuable than knowledge.
Not Reality. Actuality.
The Most Trusted Name in News.
Fair and Balanced.
When The Times speaks, the World listens.