Should You Include Your Opinion When Reporting the News?

A photo of a TV news reporter at the scene of a story. Images

One of the first lessons journalism students learn is that their reports should never include their personal opinion. A news reporter should be an impartial observer and should maintain a distance from the facts and emotion that are being presented.

That is largely true. However, here are instances when reporters can become personally involved in a story. It humanizes the reporter and shows a level of care and compassion.

A News Reporter Who Wants to Fix a Problem

An elderly woman had her car towed while she was in the hospital. The car had been parked at a city parking meter. Time expired, police put ticket after ticket on her windshield until a towing company was called in to remove her car.

When the woman got out of the hospital, she finally found her car. However, no one at city hall was sympathetic to her plight, because after all, the law is the law. That's when a family member calls a local TV station for help.

If you're assigned to this story, the simple fact may be that the woman should have had her car towed in accordance with city ordinance. Your viewers will sympathize with this little old lady and want the city to make an exception because of her hospitalization. They're rooting for her. If you fight for her, you'll look like a hero if you can convince city leaders to forgive her parking tickets and give her back her car.

This is an opportunity for you to show compassion, which will pay off for your career and for your station's image. Get your news director to proofread your script to make sure you don't blast the city needlessly. This

A News Reporter Who Wants to Help a Cause

There are all sorts of charitable causes that could benefit from media exposure.

A news reporter could help his company with community outreach.

A child may be battling cancer, while his family struggles to pay his medical bills. Their friends and neighbors organize a fundraising walk to help collect money.

You are assigned to do a story a few days before the walk. You can simply present the facts, or you can encourage people to donate their time and money to such an important need. Journalism doesn't usually include event promotion, but no one would complain if you included a call to action to help this family.

A News Reporter Who Wants to Cheer on the Community

A local high school dance group has made it to a national championship competition. The team they're up against is from 1,000 miles away. You are assigned to cover the big send-off at the airport as the team hopes to bring home the title.

You could produce a passionless story that simply states the facts. A better idea is to highlight the team's accomplishments while expressing excitement and encouragement that they'll win the trophy.

Because the other team is far away, there's little chance that someone would complain that you're not rooting for that team. So, you have the ability to tell the story of your local team while ignoring the other team.

That all changes if both teams are from the area. You'd have to play it down the middle in order not to offend the team members or their parents.

In all of these examples, the context is the key. That's why a supervisor or editor should advise you on whether your tone is appropriate for the specific story. The elderly woman who had her car towed because she's in the hospital wouldn't pull at the heartstrings if she'd been in jail. The family needing help with medical bills wouldn't deserve the same attention if they were just trying to raise money to go to Walt Disney World.