Leave your opinion at the newsroom door

By Melanie Pace | Broadcast Reporter

There is only one place for opinion in the newsroom, and that is right here, in the opinion column.

In journalism classes, one of the first lessons taught is to be an unbiased reporter of the facts. Why does this so often change when we enter the real reporting world?

You can probably recall several news sources and their political leanings without much difficulty. One newspaper is ardently conservative, another is known to be fervently liberal. This should not be the case. A credible media source is one that hides its beliefs in favor of presenting the facts. Unfortunately, finding one of these sources is becoming more and more like finding a needle in a haystack.

Everyone has opinions, including me. Our job as journalists, however, is not to share our opinions. Nowhere in the journalist’s job description does it say “tell others what you think.” If you want to do that, audition for a talk show.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, a journalist must “ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough.” We obtain the facts, tell both sides of a story and leave no question unanswered.

Today’s culture is permeated by social media, and the line between news and editorials is increasingly blurred. Perhaps because we are so used to sharing our thoughts and opinions on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, we lose sight of the distinct difference between social media and the news.

Here is a quick refresher: Journalists gather information and present the facts. Good reporting is fair and even. We do not tell people what they should be thinking, but give them the resources they need to decide on their own. We share the two sides of every story accurately and fairly, and the rest is up to the readers. This has been our American duty since the writing of the First Amendment.

The community needs us — unbiased journalists. The platform we have to share the news is an incredible gift and responsibility, and one which we should take very seriously. We are so privileged in this profession to have access and reach large publics, so let’s not take advantage of our influence.

As a reader, seek out neutral media. With elections happening now, expose yourself to sources outside of your own political beliefs and use sites like vote411.org to access information directly from candidates.