People Want Analysis Of The News, Rather Than Just Facts

from the probably-maybe dept

Last summer, Carlo wrote up a fantastic analysis of what’s wrong with journalism, which highlights the false focus on objectivity. The point he makes is that there’s nothing wrong with reporting the facts, but people get value from the interpretation, analysis and insight that people provide around the facts. That’s what we’ve always tried to do around here at Techdirt. I, personally, chuckle whenever anyone complains about “bias” or a lack of objectivity here. We’ve never claimed to be reporters or journalists. We’ve never claimed to be objective. From the very beginning of this site’s existence (I know, since I was there), it has always been about giving our opinion and analysis of the news. If we don’t have an opinion on something, we probably are a lot less interested in writing about it. And, despite the anger by a small subset at our “non-journalism,” we’ve found that most of our readers read us because they value that opinion and analysis. In fact, in the coming months, expect to see us dive even further into insight and analysis.

That’s why it’s interesting to see reporters coming to terms with new studies suggesting that opinions are exactly what younger people are looking for in their news. The editorial worries that this inevitably results in the lowest common denominator of angry commentators like those you see on the various cable news channels, but that need not be the case. The thing is, people don’t value opinions for the sake of opinions — they value opinions based on facts (which is often missing from cable news). That is, just because people want opinions, it doesn’t mean that the facts go out the window. They want to know the facts, and then they want to see the interpretation of it. They mostly understand opinion for what it is, knowing that the analysis is based on the facts, and that leads to other interpretations and analysis.

In fact, despite the claims of an internet “echo chamber,” one of the things that makes the internet such an interesting medium, is the idea that anyone can respond and discuss stuff. If someone disagrees with our interpretation of the facts, we want to know about it, and we want to discuss it. That’s how we all learn and we all become smarter. So those in the news business shouldn’t fret the value that people put on opinions these days. Those opinions still need a factual basis, and the ensuing discussion often highlights more important finer points that are missed if you’re just staring at the objective facts all day. But that’s only going to happen if traditional news organizations recognize the value of opinions — and the ability for people to talkback and discuss those opinions (and the facts they’re based on).

So far, though, that doesn’t appear to be happening. Tim Lee points us to an LA Times editorial that gets plenty of facts wrong while trashing bloggers as being only interested in opinion. Yes, certainly, there are some folks out there who are only in it to make a point or be heard. But it’s the combination of facts and opinion and analysis that has the chance to make these discussions that much more meaningful. It doesn’t mean that you do one side without the other. It means, both are needed together.

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Comments on “People Want Analysis Of The News, Rather Than Just Facts”

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DT (profile) says:

Re: opinions are exactly what younger people are l

No Tim, it’s because analyzing other well though out opinions helps us SHARPEN our own person critical thinking skills. Maybe you should think about your own skills.

Great musicians got that way by…. listening to other artists! Great thinkers sharpen their skills by…. assessing the though processes of other thinkers!

Personally I like both. I prefer opinion articles at least state the facts they’re basing their opinions on… Nothing will turn me off of a site faster than realizing that they’re telling half-truths in order to “prove” a point. To me that just proves you never had a point if you have to lie or leave out pertinent facts to support your argument.

Anyway… I wish more Americans would read both sides of the issue (opinions and all) and then find the “truth” behind the issue that best suits them. No, we all wouldn’t likely find the same “truth” but that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing as long as we respect and understand the opposing view enough to find a suitable compromise when appropriate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: opinions are exactly what younger people a

Anyway… I wish more Americans would read both sides of the issue(opinions and all) and then find the “truth” behind the issue that best suits them.

The belief that all issues have two sides is a common misconception and one of the first that anyone trying to develop critical thinking skills needs to get past. In reality, most issues more than two sides, so just considering what some consider to be “both sides” is itself wholly inadequate in the search for truth.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: opinions are exactly what younger people are l

Is this because they’re taught to not think critically?

Actually, it’s the opposite. It seems like people want to think critically, and by being able to see analysis and opinions along with the facts, it helps them to think more critically — and rethink what they’ve been told in the past.

The great variety of opinion, and the different interpretation of facts out there can often force a person to think more independently. If you have two people who violently disagree on their opinion, but are basing it on the same basic facts, it forces you to really think critically for yourself.

The Man says:

It has always been so

All journalists have opinions. Because thier opions are so ingrained (like in all of us) their writting of the facts is influenced by their opinion even though they love to say it is not. That is what pisses people off about “traditional”. It is so obvious that their personal view is guiding what they decide what “facts” to report and how to report said facts to fit their view of the story. I do not think it is a conspiricy, but human nature. A good example is New York Times vs. New York Post. I have read both and think that the New York Post is more objective. I then heard a liberal talking about how The Post was a “Mouthpiece for the Bush administration”. That got me thinking that it was not conspiricy, just personal view that got in the way. I am sure both people at the post and the times think they are perfectly objective, but the same news comes out different based on the philosophy of the paper. Network News, CNN, MSNBC Versus Fox News is exactly the same way. All I hear is liberal retoric from the Networks and most cable news, but Fox sounds very objective to me. I am sure that it is exactly the same way but opposite for the liberals. One strange difference is I never hear of Rebpublican protesting with cute slogans in front of other networks like liberal are in front of fox.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Sheeple

Please tell me what you think so that I may think it too.

Actually, that’s not at all what’s happening. When people give opinions based on the facts, it forces people to think through whether or not those opinions are really supported by the facts, and also to seek out other opinions (or see if any facts were misstated or left out). The idea here is that by allowing analysis and insight into the news, it can help drive a further, deeper understanding of the news.

Joshua says:

Re: Wall Street Journal

Dismissing reading the opinions of others as being only for those who don’t think for themselves is very arrogant. I see those who don’t want to hear the interpretations others as narrowminded and unwilling to question their own thought processes. It’s a dangerous fool who thinks that they can see all sides of a subject from a single vantagepoint.

The Other Man says:

Liberal Media

Traditional liberal media thinks that people are too stupid to think for themselves and they, the elite, know what is best for everyone. Then if someone has a thought different then what they tell them in the media, the accuse people of not being able to think for themselves and blindling following the “rebulican echo chamber”.

Streaker says:

Re: Liberal Media

There’s truth in what you say. Forty years ago there was rebellion against the “conservative establishment”. Now, it seems that there is a “liberal establishment”.

I doubt we’ll see the same type of selfish rebellion that the socially regressive folks of the Boomer Generation performed. Of course, that’s just my opinion. 😉

Sanguine Dream says:


I like to get the facts and opinions of the person writing the article since they may have a different opinion than mine which would lead me to think from another angle. If I just read facts and never hear someone else’s take on the facts then I get caught up in my own opinion and may miss out on some insight. Mind you the trick here is for reporters and writers not to get caught up in their own opinions and start stating their insights and opinions as facts.

Opinions and insights are NOT facts. They are conclusions draw based on the facts at hand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: ??

“Since when did the media provide facts? Did I miss this memo?”


Lot of talk here about “facts” and “opinions” and who wants what, but first you need to determine if what you are getting is the facts. I’m all for hearing the opinions of the facts by others but, first of all, I’d like to know just how accurate these “facts” are. I don’t necessarily believe everything the politicians, or media, tell me, so I try and get accounts of the same story from as many different sources as possible and then read the opinions and interpretations of different people. Hopefully this process will give me something close to the truth.

anony says:

I want the facts, but I love listening to opinions also…

I like to see the intelligence level of the person delivering the facts. Maybe he has opinions different than mine and can enllighten me? I also enjoy watching those with lower IQs deliver facts and then give their opinion, it gives me a great insight on how the fox news watchers think.

Peter F. Warncke says:

Opinions re news....

What is the ‘Editorial Page’ for?? But then many of our young people can’t read past the fifth grade. TV news is an extremely unsuitable medium for editorializing. Think about it! 15 to 30 second blips don’t work very well, and that is about all you get these days due to the saturation of commercials.

thinkerati says:

I think we need facts and analysis AND sometimes opinion. And, I don’t think that analysis is necessarily synonymous with opinion. I think there is definite value in both analysis and opinion, so long as the opinion includes accurate facts and skilled analysis. If somebody’s opinion is based on as much accurate fact as possible, they are skilled at analyzing data, and they are intelligent, educated, logical, wise and reasonable, then sure, I would like to hear their opinion. That doesn’t mean I think it is now fact, but I appreciate their additional insight.

There are times when I think an intelligent, educated opinion is a great resource, so long as you recognize that they are still coming from their distinct viewpoints and biases, no matter how based in fact it attempts to be.

Also, as an aside, what do people think about the media watchdog site, Center for Media and Democracy?

Anonymous of Course says:

Re: Re:

I think they’re left of center
political flacks. But they’re
entitled to their opinions as well.

A well balanced diet of propaganda
would include some of this along with
some worldnetdaily, or what have you.

It’s kind of bothersome, you’d expect
the reporters to make some attempt to
keep their personal bias out of the
story, which should be a REPORT of the
facts, hence the title reporter.

But over time it was inculcated in the
budding journalist that they need to
interpret their reports for the benefit
of the great unwashed masses, to explain
in simple terms what it means to the
pitiful lives of the peasants and
describe how it might effect their
sorry state of existence.

If a reporter willfully injects their
opinion into a report and then denies it,
in my opinion, they’re a propagandist
not a reporter.

wolferz (profile) says:

learning requires objectivity.

I read a blurb not too long back on some site or another which mentioned the trend in which scientists rarely claim something to be absolute. The author postulated that working in scientific endevers forces scientist to acknowledge that even once all the data is collected and even when a objective decision is made in the end it is still possible that some variables were not accounted for.

The author claimed having experienced cases such as these had trained scientist to remain open to even the slimmest possibility that even the obvious “truths” and accepted “scientific facts” of our time are not quite correct and that the “impossible” is in fact simply improbable.

My point to all this is as follows. While opinions are great for tabloids, blogs, and perhaps even sites like Wired, nothing can be learned in a conversation where people just give their opinions. People have to remain objective enough to change their opinions if a solid well founded counter argument is made.

This is something I have to tell some of my students: the moment you insist on being right is the moment you lose the ability to learn. Being right requires you to literally know everything. Learning requires you to acknowledge that you do not know everything.

And so I say again opinions have their place, but nothing can be learned from opinions alone and objective reporting of facts make forming an unbiased opinion of your own much more likely. The “journalists” may not be truly objective in their reporting of the facts but that is no excuse to throw objectivity to the wind. Giving opinions of your own is all well and good if you are willing to be honest about your level of objectivity and are willing to give all the facts, not just the ones that support your opinion.

As for people wanting opinions. I want a pizza with pepperoni, black olives, mushrooms, and extra cheese, a 2 liter bottle of Sunkist, and to watch a good Anime flick. However, seeing as the ideal weight for some one with my height and body type is 160 pounds, and seeing as I currently weigh over 260: what I NEED is fish, some salad, and lots of exercise. Moderation applies to more than just eating habits.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: learning requires objectivity.

And so I say again opinions have their place, but nothing can be learned from opinions alone and objective reporting of facts make forming an unbiased opinion of your own much more likely.

Which is what I said in the post. I’m not sure if you’re trying to disagree with the post (though, the tone implies that). But the point was that opinions need to be backed up by facts — and that neither alone is very valuable. Facts by themselves without analysis don’t get you very far either.

DT (profile) says:

There are quite a few places, especially on the Internet, where you can find the facts behind most issues.

IMHO, the conservative media/political proponents, have been far worse at providing factual information. Sure the liberal media does tend to leave a lot to be desired, but when I listen to conservative talk radio or read conservatively biased articles, they seem to almost belittle anyone that would try to apply real logic to what they’re asserting.

I mean come on, in both elections one of George Bush’s big campaign points was that Gore(2000) and then Kerry(2004) were too “intellectual”… what exactly does that mean? Did we really elect a president because he WASN’T as smart as his opponents? I never understood how that worked. Anyway… I really think America’s greatest issue right now is our LACK of ability to constructively debate our common issues. We’re the UNITED STATES of America, but our recent political “leaders” have turned us into the SQUABBLING IDEALOGICAL FACTIONS of America. I honestly know in my heart that the majority of American’s could figure it out if realized that we could. But instead we end up healing that if you’re a liberal, then you must think X… and if you’re a conservative, you must think Y… Then the people that assume they must be one of the above simply stop thinking… THERE is where your lack of critical thinking skills comes into the picture.

Streaker says:

Re: Re:

I could say the same thing about any conceived “liberal” bias that I read, hear or see. Remember, everyone brings their own biases when interpreting others’ biases.

I don’t remember one of Bush’s campaign points being that Gore and Kerry were too intellectual. Perhaps you are remembering someone’s bias that you read or heard somewhere which influenced your bias. There may have been reference to an “intellectual elite”, but that’s a different thing altogether.

John B says:

Best to Have a Reliable Source for Facts

I think that most people want facts and opinions. Sadly people in general tend to seek out “news” outlets that reinforce opinions that they already hold. It takes a significant amount of time and discipline not to fall into this trap. I get my news from about 40 sources from all over the political spectrum (Wired, Reuters, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, Fast Company, the Economist, Business Week, Forbes, CNET, VOA, NPR, CBS, The Independent, The Guardian, The Observer, LA Times, Financial Times, BBC, Wall Street Journal, and yes, even Fox News, although they frequently get their facts wrong and never acknowledge it or correct it, among many others).

But most people don’t have the time, or especially the inclination, to do so. That’s why I think that it is useful to have dependable source for objective facts (and yes, such things do exist, despite the inconvenience they often produce for both liberals and conservatives). Then, if people want opinions, like I do, let them delve deeper, but at least give them access to a resource that is factual to judge any opinions they read.

What is scary to me is the number of people who don’t question what they read or see in the news. They are essentially outsourcing their brains to whatever media channel agrees with their ideology. These folks often have no idea they are being misled or even purposely lied to. Fox (Faux?) News is especially bad about this among the “mainstream media”. O’Reilly gets his facts wrong on a pretty regular basis and rarely acknowledges his mistakes. They’re too numerous to list here, but one egregious mistake that he keeps repeating is that “after Malmedy, some German captors were executed by American troops”. Actually, in the incident he refers to, it was the Nazis who executed Americans. After the second time O’Reilly made this claim, Fox News actually attempted to edit their website transcript. After they got deluged with people calling their attempt to change the facts on their news story, they changed the transcript back. Fox News has been documented to misreport facts and instead report stories that are factually incorrect. They have even gone to court to defend their right to lie to their viewers (

All news outlets make mistakes. But the mainstream Left (CNN, etc.) is much better at admitting those mistakes than the right is. The far Right and far Left (Pacifica, etc.) are not much different from each other in their willingness to deny the consensual reality.

And before I get jumped on by the Faux News lovers: NO, I’m not a liberal, not even a Democrat. As a matter of fact, if McCain were by some wild chance to get the Republican nomination, I’d probably vote for him over any of the Dems in the race.

Sanguine Dream says:

Re: Best to Have a Reliable Source for Facts

And before I get jumped on by the Faux News lovers: NO, I’m not a liberal, not even a Democrat. As a matter of fact, if McCain were by some wild chance to get the Republican nomination, I’d probably vote for him over any of the Dems in the race.

I’m glad you have an idea of who you would support (even if he doesn’t get the nomination). Finding up info on the candidates is aggrivation.

Jack Sombra says:

People want both facts and opinions

Problem with vast majority of reporting these days facts are “edited” to suit the reporter or media’s companys opinion.

Real reporting where all the obtainable facts are revealed and then a opinion is presented is far and few between and normally reserved for in depth humanitarian articles that really don’t matter much to the bigger picture (except for those involved), things like sex slaves, poverty in some third world country (that has no economic or political importance of course) so forth

If money, politics or power are involved you have to go to half a dozen sources and try to build a picture yourself to get the facts, never knowing if even then you have the whole truth

Anonymous Coward says:

Facts are indispensable. Without them every opinion stands in quicksand. As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Even with the facts agreed upon, opinions are not the whole picture. You have to consider the values behind the opinions. Does the speaker value the rights of management over labor? Labor over management? etc.

More often than not, it is these kinds of value judgements that generate opinions. When weighing someone’s opinions, it’s wise to consider the source.

Sean (user link) says:

so USA-centric!

This blog usually does a good job of being a netizen but this post is so US-centric it’s not even funny. The news media in most of the world is totally subjective, just ‘cos the US media is morally bankrupt and bereft of ideas, don’t go slagging journalism. If you want subjective news you just need to watch some French or Italian news, which is chock-full of opinions and analysis, and very little actual news.
Come to think of it, you just need to watch Fox News. That’s so blatently subjective that Sky News managers objected to resource-sharing on the basis that the Fox News content was unusable.

TimW says:


I like analysis and opinion, the problem is that I prefer opinion that reflects my existing prejudices and it it probable that most of the population is the same.

Do I lack critical thinking abilities? maybe, but I cannot be an “expert” on everything, and it is often useful to have a piece of news analysed by somebody who has experience and qualifications on that subject.

Jamie (user link) says:

All news reflects opinions.

“opinions are exactly what younger people are looking for in their news.”

It’s not that young people want opinions over facts, it’s that they realize that ALL NEWS reflects the opinions and biases of the reported/editor.
I, and most people I know, would much rather know the biases and opinions of the reporter up front.
I still want the facts, but I don’t want the person who is giving those facts to me, to hide or mask the opinions and biases behind his/her presentation of those facts. their opinion is useful to me, both in determining the veracity and slant given to the facts and as an analysis of those facts.

RandomThoughts (user link) says:

Facts? What are facts? The US nuked Japan during WWII, that is a fact. I was taught that this was a good thing, that this saved lives. My son is taught that it was a bad thing, it showed how dangerous the US can be. You can talk to two doctors, one says abortion is the murder of a human, another will say that it is not. Facts really mean nothing, how we use facts in order to live our life is important. Facts? The fact is opinions become reality. Perceptions drive opinions and force people to interpret facts differently.

The media caters to its customers. I love the Wall Street Journal, but I would imagine that people from the lower class probably don’t believe that the reporting in the Journal is unbiased. From a laid off worker, the reporting on the cost cutting initiatives probably seem very biased.

I see more and more people becoming less tolerant of hearing an opposing opinion. You see this in national politics but I think that is because that is how the country actually is becoming. Grass roots, everything is local. It doesn’t matter which side it comes from, because it comes from both sides. Here in NJ, you will find the left attempting to silence the right, demonize their opinions and refuse to hear or to even let the other side be heard. You see it on blogs, you see it locally (democrats won’t even debate republican town council candidates) you see it on issues like DRM, patents, net neutrality and more.

Is it any different from the right? Look at the war on terror. GWB stating that you are either with us or against us. Saying that those that questioned the direction were un-American. Facts? Who knows. If in the future the Iraq war plays out well and there is eternal peace in the Middle East, GWB will go down in history as the man that solved one of the planets most difficult issues. He will be a hero. Currently he is known as an idiot and a fool.

Don’t blame the media, they are just serving up what their customers want.

Dennis Godfrey says:

Facts and opinions

Lots of people on this site are stating their opinions on the subject of opinions in relation to facts. Are these comments opinions or facts? Facts, by very definition, are supposed to be indisputable, verifiable truths. Opinions are mere additions, perhaps with differing interpretations of the facts. But the facts are still the facts in terms of the knowable, rational world. The skill of analysis is to be able to distinguish between fact and opinion. So I always say to opinionated people: “prove it!” By the way, all the above is fact, not opinion.

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