Just the facts...or are they?

What are facts? We think facts are something that is true or provable. We believe that intellectual debate on the issues of the day is reasonable with both sides presenting relevant facts to bolster their point of view. We believe that even if a media outlet is unabashedly biased (I know some of the seniors have discussed the bias in Fox News and MSNBC), reasoned argument will win the day.

Unfortunately, that is NOT what is happening. Over the past few years, I have seen an alarming trend where people simply ignore fact and stick to their argument anyway. This might not be so bad when you're discussing the relative merits of a particular store at the mall and whether or not the sales people are rude, but when you have people in positions of power spouting off, it's a problem. How do you know what to believe?

Leonard Pitts, in his column yesterday, describes his recent encounter with a reader who simply did not believe the facts. The documented facts, according to the reader, were wrong. The reader knew, without a doubt, the real story and accused Pitts of lying to the public. Pitts charges that we are in trouble.
To listen to talk radio, to watch TV pundits, to read a newspaper's online message board, is to realize that increasingly, we are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth. We admit no ideas that do not confirm us, hear no voices that do not echo us, sift out all information that does not validate what we wish to believe. 
Read the entire column here.

Getting to the bottom of a story does not require you to become a professional journalist. Having access to information presented in a factual way is vital to democracy. Leave a comment discussing how you will inoculate yourself against unreasonable arguments and get to the heart of real issues.  How will you preserve our democracy?

57 comments:

Savanna said...

It is not possible or reasonable for one journalist to try and preserve our democracy. However, in order to not be accused of false information in a story one can show where his got his information. Put quotes around statements that may be an opinion or an argumentative statement. there will always be people in the world that think fact is fiction, and fiction is fact. We, as journalists, need to let them think what they want while sticking to the facts of a story.

rachel said...

The only way to prove that the information a journalist has printed is to expose the interview. The reporter didn't make it up, if he or she did, there would be no interview to back up the article. Reporters should not be attacked for exposing the true facts of an event. For a reader to doubt the facts of a story, they are not just attacking the reporter, but the copy editors as well. People should just trust the journalists. There would be no reason for the journalist to lie, and if he or she was biased, the editors would have already caught the error.

Andrew said...

In order to preserve our democracy, it is important to get approved quotes and such. It is important to get written documents signed by the speaker. This way, the message given can be nothing but fact because the person signed it, and it was approved by them and a witness.

ChristianArn said...

There is always another side to a story. It is nearly impossible to cover all the bases when writing an article. One can, however, try one's best to reveal the truth. Although the facts may not satisfy everyone's needs,we as journalists can only hope to satisfy ourselves.

Banpreet said...

To preserve our democracy all journalist have to work together to that common goal and find ways to successfully print facts and only facts. Journalist have to go all out to print the truth and fact and not opinion. We will have to stop looking at opinions and go the truth for an actual unbiased story.

Samson Tong said...

The only way for us journalist to proove our legitamate articles, is to cite sources and to only state real facts given in a story. It is not a journalist's job to preserve a democracy, but they are in charge of providing a factual story unless it is an opinion piece. The only reason a journalist would put false information is to make the story more interesting so he or she would make more income from that one story.

Kimmy said...

Providing and proving facts is vital to journalism because it gives readers the knowledge of true information. To prove their facts, journalists should site the citation, such as if the information is taken from a book, tell the readers which book it is from. If the facts are stated from a person who experienced the event, put quotes around it. Providing all facts is practically impossible, but presenting some information in a factual can be done.

Terilyn said...

As corny as it sounds, one person can make a difference. We need to stand up for the truth, something that can't always fight for itself. It's like kitties and puppies and bunnies. Pleasant or not, they have no voice, and humans need to protect them. Just the same, whether or not the truth is moral is not relevant. It's the truth, and journalists need to protect it. It's the only way to save democracy, though it may not always be an easy job.

Jenna said...

The best way to preserve journalistic democracy is to stick to the facts and only the facts. In journalism there should be almost no "In my opinion..." Its not for the personal use of the reporter to shove his or her ideals down everyone's throat, its for everyone else to get a clear and unbiased view of what exactly is happening to the world. My father and I were just discussing it as we watched the Daily Show with John Stewart. Thats not to say that his show is not in its own way biased: its a comedy show and targets the mistakes and mishaps of both parties. But in some ways, it has become a reliable source for news in that it shows both the faults of the democrats and republicans, as opposed to Fox or MSNBC who only show the faults of one side. Cutting videos, editing pictures, and twisting quotes to fit their argument is not presenting the news correctly. Its best to stick to the interview and whatever other RELIABLE sources the reporter has at hand.

Andrew said...

Preserving our democracy is to be true to oneself and to others, when writing an article, that is. Although, it is hard for people to stay honest in a dishonest world. We're in a society that people will believe anything people say if they act as if they know what they are talking about. To do this, and I hope I am not repeating other comments, is to always cite sources and information where you get them. That is, if you get a certain part of the article from an encyclopedia, another report, book, etc. put it down there. Whenever you write your article, do not lie and put down what YOU think is fact, ONLY put the facts, and if somebody accuses you of otherwise, you'll be able to show them where you got that piece of information. Journalists must not be biased, but know things from both point of views.

Wendy said...

To preserve democracy, as a journalist, I would try my best to use facts and logic to prove my standings while showing the resources of my proves. As a listener under a larger media, I would not blindly believe the speaker thoughts or opinion, but to do fact check on my own about certain ideas being raised. It is not just my responsibility to preserve democracy; it is everyone's role. As Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

Leah said...

Presenting factual evidence is a very important aspect of journalism. Journalists should always fact check and verify quotes. This ensures that the information that is printed is always correct. There are two sides to every story, but fact is fact.

colby said...

If someone presents the facts and someone else argues, it would most likely mean the person is stubborn and will not listen to reason. If a person knows the facts are true and still insist their argument is right, it does not make sense to argue back because of how stubborn the person is. Because of this, people can't preserve their own democracy because someone will always argue against the facts.

Chris Mendoza said...

Unfortunately, everyone tells lies, even if they are insignificant. I think a reporter can lie, for example if they make up their story's subject. However, Leonard Pitts Jr. goes to the extent of providing various sources. The honor and importance of a cemetary and a governmentis not ignorable. To better cope with handling the truth, one should be upon-minded and consider err's, if there can be any.

Chloe said...

Although it is important to preserve our democracy, after our maximum efforts, it is a minor concern whether our audience chooses to believe our stories. As journalists, the most we can do is reveal our story factually (cite our sources, quote statements properly, etc). After this, however, it is not, up to us to convince our audience we are telling the truth (Who are our readers to say we are making up stories, anyway? I can hardly imagine a benefit that would come out of that). While it is a shame and disturbance that readers are doubtful of articles, after providing as much proof as possible, we simply must face there are stubborn people in the world that argue for the sake of arguing.

Beilul said...

As a journalist, it is important to write a story based on facts. Anything with an opinion is bound to alienate readers who disagree with the position you are presenting in the article. Journalists are a vital component of a democracy. Free press will report the facts and better informed readers and citizens means we will be better equipped to make choices that will benefit our country.

Smylezface:] said...
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Yueming said...

In order for us to cover stories more fairly, we should consider making multiple interviews that represent the various sides of an issue. We should try to interview people because we are interested in seeing their perspective, not because we need them for quotes. However, this means we would need to spend more time and effort on the collecting, organizing and writing processes. At times, even the people we think have authority and resources give incorrect answers to interview questions. We should try to contact other people who should know the information and see what they think. Also, we need to cite all information! If that still does not work, perhaps we need to change the angle and focus on doing an article about why people feel the need to give false accounts.

Edison said...

Sometimes preserving our democracy may seem like an impossible task but the most we can do is try our best and provide real facts and site sources. Journalists have no reason to be biased. And articles go through copy editors to be check o further prevent any mistakes. Readers themselves are the ones who choose to believe it or not, journalists just provide the news and information.

Stacy Chan said...

The most powerful way to preserve democracy is if every journalist has the dignity to present only facts and not opinionated articles. Unfortunately, not every single journalist will abide to this goal. Will there even be a concerted effort soon--or if ever? That is quite another question. Until then, journalists should do their best to go in-depth during the writing, scouting and verifying process.

Carla said...

In order to preserve our democracy, it is important that factual information provided by the journalist is valid. It is vital that whatever information or article journalists reveal to the public are in fact true and have been proven true whether it is backed up by evidence or interview. After all, it is the key to protecting democracy. It is a journalist's duty to tell the truth and the facts.

Stephanie said...

I agree with Samson and the rest in how articles should include cited sources. Legitimate citations should be ready in hand if requested. It is vital to preserve our democracy with factual information because journalism is about revealing the truth. Evidence seems to be he last source of honesty these days.

Sabrina said...

Facts are facts. I do not see why some readers try to question facts that journalists write about, espcially if the journalist is legitimate. Articles are not fiction and they usually have an account of both sides of an argument. Articles are supposed to be unbias and factual or else it would have never gone into publication. So I don't understand why people feel the need to argue about facts in black and white, just because they argue about it, does not mean it is going to change facts. Journalists or someone needs to give these people a slap in the face on reality.

Damaria said...

this really doesnt fly with me one journalist can not try and preserve our democracy im just a lost for words

lexxa said...

It's important to get the quotes and facts all right. I wouldn't think anyone would want to know a reporter's opinion because the only reason they're listening to you is because they want to know the real story. Even with outside people: sometimes it's better to keep your opinion to yourself, such as the person that was obviously too stubborn to actually read the real article and admit he was wrong. If one person can preserve our democracy by doing that right thing, then it can change the whole world.

alec said...

The question is "How will you preserve our democracy?" Well, the art of journalism is simply fact, with a touch of opinion, but mostly just fact given in a presentable way. According to democracy, using fact to present a story is necessary for its development to preserve itself. To inoculate onself to preserve this trend of fact-telling, one has to simply define themself to be beyond careful: checking the sources daily, ensuring quotes are real and checked, but mostly, doing whatever is necessary to preserve the stature of journalism, which is one that tells the truth, not opinion. Journalism is about telling the truth and making news relevent to the public eye. There are no alternative ways to not be a journalist, therefore, fact is above all necessary if democracy is to be preserved.

Katherine said...

Fact checking is crucial to journalism. Without facts, one would not have a story at all. Therefore, without correct facts, one's story would possibly be a complete lie. Journalists cannot simply pull quotes out of thin air, they must be proven and fact checked for their accuracy. A fact is proven, and that's all that matters.

kyle said...

thats the problem with using facts, people believe what they see. Some people here false facts and believe it, others know the true facts and believe those. Theres always two sides to a story, and each side thinks that they are right, no matter what the "facts" are and if one side finds out they are wrong, they get mad and keep on arguing.

Breaunna said...

Journalists are going to have to find ways to preserve democracy by reporting the facts and ONLY the facts. Reporters can fact check any information they are given, they can research statements that seem biased and opinionated, and they can document who and where they got their information from in order to prove their credibility. Reporters must do whatever is in their power to keep their articles fact based and prove that their information is ONLY factual.

marc said...

Of course there will always be people who will question a journalist's words. every now and then a journalist exagerates, or even makes up a story. It could just be the human's curiosity but nonetheless, there are easy precautions that should be put to action to avoid these kinds of comments, such as citations, quotes, and ready-to-go arguementative speeches in hand wouldn't hurt every now and then as well. Be prepared for situations like this because let's face it, some of them believe they have super powers of some sorts.

Renee said...

Journalists are required to have the same goals in their job of reporting facts in order to ward off unreasonable arguments. Be persistent in researching the truth is the job of journalists and readers. The carrying of a questioning mind will allow critical reasoning toward unreasonable arguments. Furthermore, if journalists are willing to stay firm in their reporting of facts, democracy can be preserved.

nicholas said...

Opinions get in the way of facts a lot of the time. When only facts are given, and maybe a certain tone can get your opinion, or it would let readers draw their own opinions about what you are wrighting about.

Courtney Mariano said...

People will always have their concerns, and I am sure there will always be that one person who questions the validity of an article. And I think it is reasonable for readers to have their doubts because of the way some journalists have destroyed the trust between the writer and his audience. It is, however, not fair to distrust all journalists in general. But because of the lack of trust, I think it may be pointless to try and convince the public. The only thing journalists can do is fact check all information that is given to them and be ready with proof of multiple interviews.

katie said...

Journalists and reporters are going to find a way to preserve the democracy by providing only facts because readers are wanting the knowledge.

Jordan said...

Sticking to facts is the most important factor when reporting and writing a story. Leaving out your opinion and bias is the key to great reporting because people's opinions lead them to take sides and the report or story won't be completely based on the interview. When information is not gathered from an interview, the reporter must be able to check their source's credibility. Without the truth, the story will be nothing but a lie.

athena said...

One must believe the truth. To be investigative enough to question the sources, the information presented, and the writer, are all parts of critical thinking. We need to present things how they are not how they seem to be or how people want to hear it. Unreasonable arguments can be easily become null and void if the argument really doesn't exist and all views are expressed on the basis of opinion. It is not our job to make news believable.

Kimberly said...

Without facts, there is no true story. Quotes and statements should revolve around the facts of the story. I believe the only way to settle an argument is by basing it on the facts. So without facts, there is no true argument.

Stephanie said...

Perhaps as one journalist, I cannot make a difference in preserving out democracy, but collectively, we can really make an impact. The best we can do to get to the heart of our issues is to interview, prove, and cite. There will always be unreasonable arguments against our stories, and it is up to our audiences to decide whether to believe them.
- SNy

Julia Maniquiz! said...

All journalists are truly in possession of is their word and the truth, or lack thereof, of their statements. It is the duty of journalists to remain unbiased in all matters and to inform the public in the most truthful manner possible. The sole way in which journalists can preserve democracy is to ensure the presence of the freedom of the press. Unrestricted press provides journalists with the ability to expose the truth of the matter.

Giselle said...

It is very difficult to try to argue against people who refuse to accept facts. Because facts are so concrete, if they won't even believe those, there's almost no hope in them believing you. The only thing to preserve democracy and the truth is to educate those who ARE willing to accept facts and report according to them.

All the rest of us can do is report the truth and keep doing it. Who's to stop us?

Joseph said...

For journalists to preserve democracy, they must use only the facts or opinions given by the sources they recived the information from. Some of the information obtained from a souce may not be true, but as journalists, we must still broadcast the information.

Darlena said...

Being a frequent Youtuber, I am well aware of ignorant arguments and comments many people insist on sticking to. However, I have no authority over what anyone publishes. So to protect and preserve our democracy, I will make sure that what I personally publish is on point. For any journalist on any level of experience, logic and common sense is of utmost importance.

Stefan said...

Truthiness (Noun): "The quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true" (American Dialect Society, January 2006)

This word invented by Stephen Colbert for his satirical news show, "The Colbert Report" has some seriousness to it. When some people strongly believe in something, they will fight tooth and nail to prove it's true, even if it is not.

To "Preserve our democracy" we need to use fact, no matter how passionate we are about a subject, no matter how much we don't want something to be true.

Patrick Li said...

If you want to have true facts, you might as well leave cameras in every part of the world. Everyone shows the side that defends themselves or at least makes them sound better. How would someone know the real truth from another source? Only a video camera can show all sides of the story, other then that I can't see how its possible.

simaran said...

As journalist, it is our duty to report out the truth to the public. This can only be achieved by telling the absolute truth, without over-exagerrating anything. And like Chloe said, we can only report out to the public, whether they want to believe us or not is up to them. But if we report out truthfully, like ciitng our sources and using quotes, then people will most likely want to believe us

Fiona said...

It is important for journalists to preserve their democracy. As journalists, it is our duty to write unbiased stories that tell facts and the truth only. After all, the most we can do is cite our sources correctly and quote statements effectively. After that, it is up to readers to believe if we are telling the truth or not. Journalists are given the freedom of speech to inform the public about various matters. However, that freedom means we must still tell the truth at all times.

Henry said...

I agree that journalism should be completely unbiased. Unfortunately, news reports are written by humans which are in my opinion truly incapable of being completely unbiased. I also agree that journalist should have only proven facts but it is also true that sometimes it is impossible to have all the fact facts. I think it is up to the readers to trust what is given not the writer. What I do not get is how unbiased news would create a better democracy. After all democracy is not ideal.

Haley K. said...

In-depth research and interviews are two methods of gathering facts one can approach in order to insure true and factual information. However, it is nearly impossible to know that something is completely true, so questioning the facts is something everyone must consider when writing an article. It is also a journalist's responsibility to insure the preservation of democracy, thus checking the facts with the Constitution in mind.

Jennifer D said...

I definitely agree with both Samson and Stephanie. One way to prove that the articles written is to provide accurate and precise information, stating only the facts, while possibly citing all sources. As a journalist, one must always present the facts, and both sides of the story, never inserting personal opinions.

Chris Habash said...

Why can't a journalist preserve our democracy? A single person can make a difference. If a reporter were to use accurate information that is reasonable, the rest is taken care of. With the truth and honesty, democracy will naturally follow, and there would be no need for anyone to question a story if it is given that the reporter is reliable and reports the truth.

Donovan said...

Of course journalism should be unbiased, but that is very difficult to do.Facts are important but sometimes they arent at one's fingertips.It is important for journalists to preserve their democracy. The only thing we can do is try to create a better and factual story

Cathie said...

Journalism today has moved on from being truthful. It transitioned from being biased and now that has evolved into writing stories without facts.

Last time I checked, news isn't fiction.
It's important for us, as journalist, to report the truth and nothing but the truth.

Myron said...

It is not completely possible to preserve our democracy by way of journalism. If facts are being reported, they are facts and their validity cannot be argued, even if they colored for a certain view. People are simply changing in a modern society and feel that staying informed, whether with neutral information or facts colored towards a certain view, and journalists can only attempt to preserve democracy by listening to the public.

Louisa said...

Truth is based on facts and, as journalists with integrity, students should present situation based on facts. One statement can start as a rumor and this rumor can be dramatized and intensify into a lie. Statements, however, can be proved as true as journalists do not provide false information. Quotes, direct or indirect, and references reinforce the credibility statements and stories and eliminates any sense of editorialized material. To ensure the accuracy of a story, statements should also be fact checked.

Teresa-Mae said...

In order to inoculate myself against unreasonable arguments, it is no longer enough for me to try my best not to color facts with my opinion. As unreasonable as arguments may be, I (well, we) need to understand different points of views and understand where such arguments originate. Maybe it would be an easier task to refute arguments.

Joyce said...

if I was accused of telling lies which i believed to be the truth, i wouldn't know how to act. I never even thought something like this might occur until reading this blog and column. journalists/reporters should not be blamed because they are simply reporting what they are told.

we should always cite our sources. i also because that quoting from "anonymous sources" is incredulous and should not be included in any stories.

Crystal said...

In order to preserve our democracy the facts and information that journalists present must be thoroughly checked. It is important that journalist expose nothing but the truth. As journalists, we must always think of the truth and stick with nothing but the facts of the story.

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