Let’s distinguish between news, opinion and analysis. Knowing the difference is something most people find difficult at first. After they learn the difference though, it makes participating in news a lot easier.
As in the New To News tutorial, we will simplify things to give you a working understanding — even though our points along the way will not be perfect.
News: What happened.
Analysis: What happened and why — an expert considers the facts and draws conclusions.
Opinion: What I think of something.
Put another way:
News: Events happened.
Analysis: Events that happened could/can be understood this way.
Opinion: Here’s what I think about events that happened.
Examples of headlines:
News: Crackdown “Violation Of Human Rights”
Analysis: Crackdown Violation Of Human Rights
Opinion: Crackdown Violation Of Human Rights
In the news article, an entity in position of authority to decide or say is being reported on for their statement. In the Analysis article, an expert on what violates human rights law is explaining what was done, what the law states, how it is interpreted, and why this means the act was in violation. In the Opinion article, someone is saying they think an act was or should be considered a violation of human rights.
All three are important to news. Along with straight news, Opinion and Analysis inform readers about the facts, context, perspectives, and meaning of events.
The three types of writing are just that: different types of writing. There are grey areas between the three styles of writing. Editors make judgement calls.
Writers are intelligent people able to draw meaning, inferences and conclusions from facts. They cannot express these personal opinions and thoughts freely in straight news as they can in Analysis and even more so in Opinion.
In straight news, journalists synthesize the facts, perspectives and analyses they come to learn about a subject and are in a position to draw conclusions. They can use these conclusions to write articles that focus on important aspects of a subject. Also, journalists can use their understanding to reduce the complexity of a matter so the public can understand easily. Journalists can also identify the prevailing perspective on a subject and provide news based on an alternative perspective.
Why is straight news important? It presents facts to the public so they can decide for themselves the meaning of events. When a writer expresses their opinion they preclude the public’s ability to discuss and decide the subject themselves. A writer who includes opinion loses authority as an impartial reporter of events.
Readers want to understand what events mean. They want to hear what an expert thinks about events within their area of expertise and have explained to them why the expert thinks so.
Analysis does just this. Analysis is an expert opinion. It is what readers seeking analysis want to find (not what a writer wants to tell them). Analysis writers therefore have experience, knowledge and other background which they use to interpret a matter. They provide the reader with facts and evidence. They do not include their own opinion. They are similar to professional teachers. The draw conclusions from events, but the conclusions they state are clearly based on evidence.
The third type of writing important to news is Opinion, the meaning of events. Not everyone is an expert, but many non-experts (or non-expert writers) have something important to say about an event. Every voice is important to understanding news. Opinion articles are these voices. An Opinion article is an interpretation of an event or events in a particular form. Readers know how to understand the form and they can “hear” the voice.
(Note: While an Opinion article voices a point of view, it must not misrepresent other points of view.)
Readers must know what they are reading. They must not think they are reading news when they have an Analysis or Opinion article in front of them. Therefore, Opinion and Analysis are clearly labelled as such. Looking again at the three example headlines near the top of this page, you can understand even more clearly why a clear label is important.