“Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” — CP Scott, The Guardian editor, 1921.

Journalists love to express their opinions; some like to dress them up as news and facts to foist their personal views on the public. This trend seems to be increasing.

Maybe it’s time they enrolled in Journalism 101. In today’s opinion-saturated media, the public would be well-served by more facts – well-researched and accurate. Not “Alan Jones” facts.

As Crikey reports, the beleaguered broadcaster, reprimanded for claiming on-air that human beings produce only 0.001% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (that’s rubbish), will be subject to fact-checking under a deal between 2GB and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Jones is an easy target, but as The Power Index‘s profile of ABC broadcaster Fran Kelly points out, she regrets publicly backing the carbon price last year. Kelly now says: “I shouldn’t have said that … I presented it too starkly as opinion at the time.”

It’s easy to make errors of fact or of judgment — especially when speaking off the cuff. But that’s no excuse for not trying to get it right. Opinion and analysis is important — Crikey publishes its fair share — but journalists of all persuasions might want to focus more on facts, and less on what they think.

Because when we tune in, click the mouse or open the paper, many of us would like to get the story first — and make up our minds later.

 

Peter Fray

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