Of commentaries and facts: Why news networks should go back to just reporting the truth of the matter

Top left: Fox News Sunday Panel with Chris Wallace, Top right: MSNBC panel, Below: CNN’s 8-person panel with Jake Tapper at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia

Conversations that can turn into a shoutfest, opinion-sharing that can turn into an argument that doesn’t solve anything, or did I forget, correspondents that are let by anchors themselves to speculate on what might happen? I’m sick of them.

Most of these scenarios happen at the present time in most major cable news outlets, especially in the U.S., where most political commentators, or more popularly known as “pundits”, were given time to express their opinions and at times, clash with other commentators’ views. It’s a daily habit mostly for major nets CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC and it is sad that factual reporting has been compromised in order to give more airtime to these paid commentators to shout off their opinions, which are sometimes not based from the facts. These panels are made up of commentators leaning left or right and the anchor/s on their respective hour in cable news moderates what it appears to be a debate that is often present in all live hours of each cable news networks.

This has been a practice for them in the past years and it is damaging their identity and brand as a legitimate news channel. It has been a way to lessen the time to rely more on fact-based reporting and correspondents on the scene who acts as the transmitter of information based from what they have gathered on a specific issue. 

Right, it can be the way for a diverse spectrum of perspectives from talking heads of both sides. But oftentimes, each of these on-air conversations could go heated and off-the-beat in the spirit of heavy reliance to each of their respective beliefs and views regarding a story or issue. This results to a very unpleasant reception towards viewers because there’s a tendency that they couldn’t understand what’s happening on their TV screens. These heated arguments, for me, never helped an average citizen to decide what’s the right thing nor did make a viewer understand deeper what the issue means for the society. These opinionated segments still pave way for more division between people depending on how they perceive of those perspectives coming from these paid so-called “pundits.” With these on-air commentaries that are given longer airtime than the truth behind each headline, or should I say “actual news”, journalism, mostly in the U.S. cable news industry is in jeopardy.

Luckily, here in the Philippines, local news networks still heavily rely on their reporters who directly obtains information from the scene of the story. They just give a small amount of airtime to opinion-based segments, primarily on their weekly programs. For instance, ANC’s “Talk Back” & “Beyond Politics”, and GMA News TV’s” Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie.” These programs rely mostly on talking points but the difference is that these only happens on a weekly basis, unlike the daily and hourly ones on U.S. cable news airwaves.

Having an opinion towards a hot topic is every individual’s right. But in the news industry, the people or viewers, who are the ones responsible to decide right after figuring out the information, needs to rely on the absolute truth that shapes and fills every top story of national or international interest. It is the truth that is coming straight from the anchors and correspondents who relay the information to all platforms may it be on TV, radio, or in social media. This is what everyone needs in order to proceed with their all but important judgement or decision before taking an action as a citizen.

Newscasts in all platforms should devote more time on factual reporting in order to increase people’s awareness on the daily issues impacting a demographic or population and to help with their daily discourse. If they insist on still allowing commentaries, they should at least balance the program between news and views. Why? Because at the end of the day, viewers will still examine both the fact from the report and the opinion from what each commentators spew from their mouth and both of these variables will impact how would they face these issues surrounding the society and what their implications could be for the present and the future.

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