Just the Facts?


Homework, homework, homework.

This week alone I have somewhere in the vicinity of about 2000 words I have to write for three different classes. Here is one of them for my Mass Media class. Honestly, I have no idea whether it answered the question that was asked, something that I have been hammered for before in some of my classes, but I kind of enjoyed writing this piece. I don’t know, tell me what you think.

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Just the Facts?

The recent news media has been a flurry with the retelling of Kim Davis’ imprisonment for defying a federal court order by denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to her religious belief, and her subsequent release four days later. Regardless of anyone’s particular stance of this hot button item, the reporting of news has always been about facts, and facts only. Sadly, in this case, because it falls into the category of buzzwords and sensationalistic journalism, almost every news outlet has placed heavy bias on how they report this particular story. Some side on the right of religious freedom, some condemn on the stance that she broke the law. Either way, the noise that surrounds this story makes it incredibly difficult to hear what the real message is.

Facts are the most important aspect to any news story, and at one point, were the story. A fact is defined as “a thing that is indisputably the case” (Oxford Dictionaries). With that definition, anything that can not be proven is not a fact, and therefor has no place in a news story and is more fit for an editorial column or a social media site. When the reports for this story are aired, the fact that a clerk did not fulfill the duties of her job description are stated, but more as an after thought or a spring board to the much more controversial same-sex marriage/freedom of religion debate, which is more about the ‘why’ and not the ‘what’, and in that becomes speculative at best.

When you speculate, you guess, and your guess is nothing more then a combination of your field of experience and information that you have in front of you, which leads to bias and opinion. Bias and opinion are more then welcome in late night television and skit-oriented programming, however it does not belong in our newspapers and reputable sources. Most of the coverage of the Kim Davis’ story was heavily biased, focusing on the reporter’s tint toward what side of the coin they fell. The same-sex marriage law was being opposed, or the freedom of religion was being infringed upon, points that should be hotly debated by any American, but not pushed by the news.

Getting your audience emotionally invested in your story is an incredibly important aspect to any good story, as it keeps the reader reading or viewers watching. As is the case with most broadcast media, the constant repetition of a story gives the sense that it is important. When Kim Davis was released, the hours of highlight reels of her walking out to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” were spotted with reporters’ commentaries and personal viewpoints. After all, there is only so much fact you can report when it comes to a three-minute clip.

In the end, we are left with more commentary, speculation, and the ‘why’ of the story, with the ‘what’ being shoved off into a corner and relegated to the extraneous information box. When this happened, the provable, factual aspect of the story became just as much a victim as does the rest of the audience to the story. So much of the attention was placed on the topic of same-sex marriage and religious freedom, and not on the actual story of a county clerk not doing her job, that it is easy to understand why so many people might not actually see the real story at the heart of what was really going on. An elected government official being punished for abusing the power that the people placed in them to do the job they are being paid for. And when you strip away the smoke and mirrors, you just have to wonder, was she only following the example of those above her? But, that would just be an opinion and we can’t report that. Or, can we?

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