Should a journalist have an opinion?

Writing a blog can bring its problems. As a reporter writing a normal newspaper article you get used to covering all sides of a story; in its simplest form, what one person says and how the other person responds. Despite what some people occasionally read into articles I write, my own views never come into it.

In fact, at times, I find myself writing stories that go completely against my own views – for example an article reporting people’s outrage that sex education was being given to seven-year-olds in Leicester. Personally, I didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

No matter who I speak to, I try not to let my own opinions cloud my judgements and to do so would not only be unfair and unprofessional but would also discourage people from talking to me. I wouldn’t blame them. I was taught by the wonderful old-school retired editor of the Liverpool Echo, Vince Kelly, to follow the rule that a journalist reports the bare facts and lets others draw their conclusions.

So does a blog change all that? After all, although I don’t make my opinions known in a story, it doesn’t mean I don’t have them. For the past five years, I’ve spent every day speaking to head teachers, union leaders, politicians, parents, civil servants, pupils and students and you can’t do that without forming some pretty strong opinions about the way education is run. In fact, I wouldn’t have come into this job if it wasn’t something I felt passionately about.

The fact that Leicester Mercury journalists have started writing blogs seems to have perturbed a few people, but they have nothing to worry about, other than getting used to a media in a slightly different format from the traditional newspaper article. I don’t think having a blog changes anything at all.

Because I’m a journalist, because I wouldn’t have this blog if it wasn’t for the fact I worked for an impartial newspaper, you’ll never read on here any opinion of mine influenced by bias for or against any political party or because I personally like or dislike any individual.

But since I spend so much of my time in the world of education and speaking to the people who matter, it allows me to come to some sort of informed view of what’s going on.

And of course anybody can disagree with that too.

About Ian

A journalist working in Brussels
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3 Responses to Should a journalist have an opinion?

  1. It shouldn’t be a problem for journalists have and express an opinion, and given that most people will expect that intelligent people have an opinion it actually shows a level of transparency not previously available.

    I am now better informed (at least about your opinion) as you have a personal outlet that allows you more space and freedom than is available in the printed word alone.

    Those people who don’t like this view being known are probably those who seek to control information and how it is put to the public. More information sources, especially with fewer restrictions don’t fit the controlled information model that some people prefer, and unfortunately got used to.

  2. The key thing is to distinguish between what is opinion and what is reporting. Presumably most of the material in a blog is opinion — or something close to it.

  3. AJ Cann says:

    Should a teacher have an opinion?

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