A story on my Iphone newsfeed got my blood pressure up last week. It looked like a news story, but the headline could hardly be called unbiased. It said “Meat is Horrible” and referred directly to an item in the Washington Post, as if it were a news story.
The Washington Post item was a guest editorial that claimed the meat industry was responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This number has been used widely by people opposed to meat consumption. But as we reported several weeks ago, further research shows it is flat wrong. A UC Davis scientist conducted a study that shows the cattle and pig industry accounts for about 3 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a far cry from the 18 per cent that the Post editorial proclaimed.
What bothered me wasn’t the fact that the Post printed yet another opinion piece that condemns the meat industry. It was two things that upset me; first, that the article did not even mention the UC study that suggests huge problems with the UN data; and second, that this opinion piece showed up in my iPhone newsfeed as a legitimate news article.
This wasn’t the Post’s fault. It was the fault of the individual at Apple that assembles the news feed, that did not separate what was clearly not news but instead was an opinion. It’s another example of how far down journalism has gone, that today’s news companies don’t appear to know the difference between facts and opinions.
It’s critical to separate the two. As a journalist, a headline claiming “meat is horrible” had better be a restaurant review. The word “Horrible” is clearly an opinion word, designed to influence the reader. A real journalist doesn’t tell you an accident is horrible; he or she describes the scene, reports the facts, and leaves the conclusion that it was horrible up to the reader to make – they never would make it for them.
Let’s start calling out our news sources when we see them present opinions as facts. Journalism 101 teaches reporters to eliminate opinion words. A reporter should tell you the facts, not tell you what you should think of them. Let’s remind our editors and writers of this basic tenet of their profession.
Previously published on The Western View by AgNet West.