Is There a Line Between News and Opinion?

by Dan Ward

The News and Opinion pages in daily newspapers are rarely truly separate, despite the assertions of some newspapers over many years that a line divides the two, just as there has long been a line between news and advertising.

The Opinion pages often include editorials about stories that have appeared in the News sections, leading many to believe that those stories are being driven by editorial opinion.

In most cases, I believe that is not the case.  It makes sense that, following a major news story, editorial writers might decide to weigh in with their opinion.  But notice I said “in most cases.”  The line, if there really is one, between news and opinion does appear to be blurring, especially with the increasing use of blogs that allow beat reporters to share their opinions.

Last week, I saw a clear example where an editorial board was attempting to influence the direction of news coverage.  On behalf of one of my clients, I set up and managed a call with an editorial board for a major Florida daily.  My objective was to provide an introduction to my client’s industry.  Since a reporter for the daily was coincidentally working on a story involving our industry, she was invited to attend.  That’s fairly common.

What isn’t common is having the editorial board director interrupt our conversation to brusquely ask, “Can we just get to the point of why we’re here, and discuss the story that’s being developed?”

When the person running the Opinion pages jumps in to drive a news interview, the line between the two is not just blurred, it’s ignored entirely.

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