Sergeant Joe Friday on “Dragnet” knew what to look for. One of the challenges of writing news stories, is wading through the pool of opinion based sources. Early in the morning, when I crawl into the News Room to begin the process of finding the latest information on the topics of the day, I sort through various versions of the same story, but from very different angles. I’ve come to trust some, and question others, simply because of trial and error. But, it’s all about getting the correct facts. The more facts you get, the more correct the story becomes, and the more clearly the story is conveyed to the listener.
Here’s an example of what I teach young journalists. Let say there’s a report of a violent situation between two people in a grocery store parking lot, where one hits the other so hard that it knocks the other down to the ground. And, that is all you hear about it. What is your immediate perception of that scene? That the person who hit the other is a criminal and should be arrested? Now, what if more information becomes available on that scene and you find out the person who was hit was actually attempting to rob the “hitter”? Does that make a difference in the way you view the person who did the hitting? Maybe not, because perhaps you’re thinking there could have been a better way to resolve the situation than violence. But, what if the robber was pointing a gun at the other person’s child? Suddenly the idea of a violent confrontation takes on an entirely different weight.
It is extremely important that both the reporter, and the listener, do everything they can to seek out all of the facts before jumping to conclusions. Knee jerk reactions, from inadequate information, are the cause of many problems within society, from politics to law enforcement, to equality to prejudice, and on and on. Get the facts, and then some more, before forming your conclusion. In the end, truth wins!