AVOID HIDDEN JUDGEMENTS
Even the most factual of stories are not immune from opinion being mixed with the facts. It only takes a single noun, verb or adjective within a narrative, whether it be used deliberately or absent-mindedly, to steer the reader’s judgement towards a particular interpretation.
Writing “Banker Mark Pesos…” is not the same as writing “Speculator Mark Pesos…”. Saying that Mark Pesos is a banker is stating an objective fact. To call him a speculator is to formulate a judgement by mixing fact and opinion.
Choosing the right words is very important.
Always be sure to use the right word in a narrative. The right word is the word without any ulterior motive.
SEPARATE ASSUMED OPINION
Any journalist worth their salt campaigns for freedom of expression. They demand it for others, so it is only natural that they should be the first to practice it themselves. As for the readers of a newspaper, they have a right to expect that the professional observer providing them with information will loyally share his or her personal point of view on current affairs. The commentary is a natural journalistic genre. However, a journalist defending his or her values is not a militant in the political sense of the word. There is only one sure fire way to guarantee honest news coverage: separating the reporting of facts from the expression of opinion. Separate them from one another on the page. Physically: write two articles, one devoted to the facts and the other to commenting on those facts. Visually: use different fonts and typefaces for the two articles. Highlight the difference in the layout: set out the facts first, followed by the commentary; use the headline for the facts and a sub-heading for the commentary.
The format of the commentary is very important.
The commentary is an essay about the narration of the facts. However, not all essays have the same impact. The same is true of commentaries: some commentaries are comprehensive, while others are critical.
THE THREE TYPES OF COMMENTARY
With its short format, the opinion piece favours the use of light or caustic humour in the commentary. The shorter the commentary, the greater its impact: “That same morning, Mark Pesos announced to his employees that they were going to have to tighten their belts. So why doesn’t he put his hands in his own pockets…?”
With its longer format, the editorial is better-suited to two other forms of commentary: it offers the reader an argument or a judgement.
The analytical editorial is a highly structured article; its lead is compelling and its final sentence is devastating: “Having made more redundancies in order to bring in even greater profit, Mark Pesos ended up putting himself in danger: just a few days before he was taken hostage, he refused to listen to advice and laid off the entire team of security guards tasked with keeping him safe. Just yesterday, he announced his decision, which was considered unjustified by most observers, to reduce Dosh Bank’s workforce by a third. His employees are no doubt secretly celebrating his abduction: it was bound to happen eventually!”
The emotional editorial allows feelings to come to the fore. It is more assertive than argumentative: “What’s a few million to Mark Pesos? Think of the staff he laid off!”
THE AUTHOR AND THE NEWSPAPER CAN BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE EDITORIAL
The editorial always bears the signature of its author at the top or bottom to ensure transparency and respect for the reader. Direct responsibility for the content lies with the author; however, the directors of the newspaper responsible for publishing it are also indirectly responsible.
If two editors within a newsroom have differing opinions that cannot be reconciled when it comes to writing a commentary, there is nothing to prevent the newspaper from publishing two editorials in parallel that support two opposing points of view. This will be appreciated by the reader.
Anonymous editorials always express the position of the newspaper in which they are published and are therefore the responsibility of the directors of that newspaper.