Yes, there is a difference between fact and opinion – and a credible media operator must be able to identify that difference.
Facts are claims that you can verify by asking yourself a simple question: ‘says who?’
Opinions are thoughts that you or the person you are interviewing express about an issue, event or topic of interest.
Facts are claims that can be verified.
All facts must be attributed – to someone or something (such as a report). If you haven’t read the report that is being quoted yourself, then claims made about the report must be attributed to someone – a person.
If your interviewee expresses ‘facts’ – you must check them.
Most facts can be disputed. For your story to be credible, you must request an interview with people who may hold alternative opinions.
In MSM (mainstream media) this is called getting ‘the other side of the story’. In reality it’s important to recognise there are many prisms through which to view a story, not just two. However the principle is the same – it’s vital for savvy media operators to understand there are always myriad viewpoints.
It’s okay for your interviewee to express opinions in your story.
All such opinions must be either contained within quote marks or attributed to your interviewee with ‘s/he said’.
Beware reporting what your interviewee claims someone else said – unless you have asked the person yourself, such information is for you to tuck away for another day.
Do not report what someone says someone else says unless you have checked with the source yourself. Do not comment or respond to questions about what someone else has said unless you have checked the story yourself.
There is no place in a news story for your opinions – unless you are the opinion maker seeking to entice news media to give you coverage.
There is however a place in credible media for what is known as an opinion piece, if you’d like to write what you think about a particular issue.
All claims you make in your opinion piece must be verifiable and attributed to a particular source.