Types of Reporting in News Media
There are several different types of news media, and it is important to be able to recognize what type you’re consuming. For example, a reporter should present newsworthy events in an objective manner, based on hard evidence and accurate information. A columnist presents their opinions, but should still use fact-based evidence to support their views.
This type of news reporting is designed primarily to relay facts to an audience in an objective manner. Reporters should be objective, and thoroughly vet and cross-examine sources to verify their accuracy and reliability.
Analysis goes a step further than factual reporting and provides the reader with a deeper, more robust understanding of the context and information presented, without passing judgement or attempting to sway opinion.
This type of content is designed to influence how you think, and win your trust. It’s helpful to be able to identify common types of persuasive language which will allow you to look beyond the rhetoric, and think for yourself. Media will often attempt to by telling stories, and drawing on our emotions. Persuasive media also often uses inclusive language, which frames a message in terms like “us” and “we” and “our,” meant to give the impression that the creator of the media and the audience are on the same side. When consuming this type of content ask yourself: Is the story fair and unbiased? Has it sacrificed factual accuracy for the sake of serving the message?
– Attacks: These are common in persuasive pieces, and are designed to both point out the faults of the competition, and attempt to provoke an audience’s fears or anger. This is especially common in political media, and is known as propaganda. Keep in mind that it’s trying to rile your emotions to convince you of an idea. Facts are often embellished or have a skewed perspective, so avoid passing judgement before investigating both sides of the story.
Example: This 1947 pamphlet was part of the “Red Scare” in the U.S. concerned with fears about the horrors of a communist takeover. The imagery is exaggerated and sensationalized to incite fear in the public.
Opinion content is based on the particular views and perspectives of the person or group expressing it. Opinion can be based on personal preferences, commercial interests, or other factors. Opinion content has no need to be impartial, so it is important to acknowledge that this type of content often contains a large degree of bias, and think critically about the information. This type of content can still be valuable, especially for comparing your own opinion with a new perspective you may not have considered. Check out this video to learn about how facts and opinion can become blurred in the media, and how to discern between them.
Types of Sources in News Media
There are also several types of sources in news reports. It is important to verify that the news you read is obtaining their information from credible and reliable sources. Ideally a news report should draw on multiple sources to ensure that the information presented is accurate, fair, and comprehensive. When reading a news report ask yourself, “Where is the writer getting their information? Are they citing a reliable source? Are they leaving any significant sources out?”
Examples of reliable sources:
Documents can include: data, official videos, photos, audio. Documents can concretely verify facts and offer authoritative evidence that supports facts, but they usually don’t provide greater context for an event.
Also known as primary source, eyewitnesses provide a firsthand account of what they experienced at the scene of an event. Although eyewitness testimonies are generally reliable, because they are based on memory, they are not always accurate.
Officials can include: Government officials, executive and administrative leaders of public health, police officers. These officials often have access to important information, but they may not be independent or impartial toward the event being covered. This information often appears in quotes and gives the reader individual perspectives on coverage. It also holds officials accountable and shows the reader where key facts originated from.
Someone who specializes in a particular subject. Experts can include professors, doctors, researchers or professionals in the field of interest. Experts referenced in a story should be independent and impartial about the story and serve as a way to add and verify important information that other sources can’t.
Anonymous sources should generally be avoided, as it is often more transparent for the reader if the source is known. However, in some cases these sources are necessary such as:
– When the information is important and can’t be obtained in any other way
– When there is a compelling reason for the source to remain anonymous, such as their personal safety
Try these quizzes from Newslit.org that assess your news literacy and ability to determine if content is credible. Think about the news content you generally consume, and evaluate if they are a credible source. What type of reporting style are they using? Do they provide sources and if so, are they credible?