There is a disturbing joke that is all too real that describes the modern journalistic world: “never let the truth get in the way of a good news story.” And doing the opposite of this is something that I stress to my news students. I constantly tell them your opinion has no place in the newsroom. We are there to present facts. It doesn’t matter if the on-air talent enjoys the story or not because they are not there to sway the audience one way or another. We are conducting a newscast, not a talk show, and even though this is lost upon many professionals, as of late, I’m doing my part in instilling it into my students.
This week all my students were put to the test. We indeed had to practice what I preach. There is a new club starting on campus, one that not everyone agrees with. Quite a few of my students were very vocal in opposition to the club, while others did support it. I made a quick announcement before all hell broke loose.
I asked my anchors what the point of the news is? They said to present the facts. I asked them whether they liked the club, a fact or their opinion. Quickly they answered with an opinion. I said good, because your opinions have no place in my studio. I told them all opinions are kept outside my classroom walls. Just like their discussion of their latest boy/girl friend has no place in my class, neither does their attitude toward a story we’ve been asked to cover
This is where I reminded them that we have two religious clubs on campus. I asked my students if they knew my feelings about those two clubs, and everyone in my class said no. And I said good because my opinion on those clubs or any club does not matter, nor does my opinion on this new colorful, open to all safe space club matter. Because I’m there to teach just like they are there to report on what is happening at the school. Everyone nodded in agreement.
When my anchors read the story about the new club, you could not tell how they felt about it. Could they have had more personality in the newscast… Sure, of course, they could have, but I just chewed out the whole class for getting an attitude with each other. I swear World War three was about to go down over a rainbow club, and I was not about to have that.
My students know that I believe in the freedom of the press and how important it is to have journalists. But I have also taught them how to look at a new story and break down whether the reporter is presenting facts or facts with a bias. My eighth graders have gotten good at pointing out opinions in a news story and my seventh graders are getting there. If my students never progress more in their TV Production career, I hope they learn one thing: how to analyze a story, discover what the facts are, and break them away from the on-air talents’ opinions.