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Opinion: Distinguishing the Difference Between a News Story and an Editorial

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Author 3972
Message Sandy Sand

Unfortunately, here at Op-Ed News, the job of telling the difference between the two is made a little harder by management, because they stubbornly insist on mixing the two under column headings.

That is a practice never done by newspapers. You will never see a news story on the opinion pages.

OEN’s left hand column is headed: Op-Eds and opinion pieces are the only items that should appear under that heading; not a mish-mash of the two.

The next three columns from the left are headed: General News, Life Arts Science and finally, Diaries.

One could justifiably expect to see only opinion pieces in the Op-Ed column; strictly news stories in the General News and Life/Arts/Science columns; and personal experiences in the Diaries column.

Not true of any of them.

Another thing that might make it hard for an OEN reader to distinguish between a news story and opinion is that many of us, including me, will read a news story or see something on television, tell the reader what happened and then give our opinion on what we read or saw.

Most of us take great pains to make it clear that we are opining and not reporting news, yet the point is often lost on some readers.

I was a reporter for several years before moving over to the editorial side of the desk, and I know it can be difficult to avoid editorializing, yet it must be done when reporting the news.

As challenging as it might be to keep a news story strictly factual and avoid editorializing, discerning the difference can be a little more challenge, but it can be done even when the difference is blurred.

To demonstrate the blurring effect and how one little adjective can have on coloring a news story, several of our journalism assignments in school were to write news stories that didn’t have one adjective in them.

Although it’s a no-no, reporters use adjectives all the time, because they want to make their stories interesting; something that’s hard to blame them for doing. The temptation is great.

If a writer says a person is young and goes on to say he’s 29-years-old, you might agree that is young, or you might not think that’s young at all.

The writer has characterized the person according to his opinion, therefore coloring the story. Twenty-nine is not only not young, it doesn’t even describe a young adult.

For the writer to say the murder victim was a beautiful woman, taken out with her whole life ahead of her is editorializing.

If there’s a photo of her, you might think she looks like a hag. It’s not up to the reporter to say her life was snuffed out too early; that’s for a quote from someone the reporter interviewed who knew the victim.

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Sandy Sand began her writing career while raising three children and doing public relations work for Women's American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training). That led to a job as a reporter for the San Fernando Valley Chronicle, a (more...)
 
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