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Your opinion?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by bigpern23, Aug 21, 2007.

  1. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    I've had this happen before, but it recently happened to me several times while working on a couple of stories and I got to wondering, what do you do when a source asks your opinion on a situation?

    I was writing a story about a fairly controversial subject last week and sources on both sides asked for my opinion about what I saw from a certain individual.

    This week, it was a game that was decided in controversial fashion and the losing coach asked me my opinion on it.

    I tend to tell the source, "I see what you're saying," or some other such vague sentence, so as not to endorse one view or another, but I have occasionally found myself telling the source my actual opinion. The times that has happened, I've looked back on the interview and found myself wondering if I should have kept my mouth shut, since I'm not supposed to have an opinion.

    Now, I'm quite confident my objectivity shines through in the story, but if a source is aware of my opinion (which I do not put in the article), I wonder if it colors their perception of the article itself.

    So what do you all do when confronted with that question?
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    If you are doing an interview, I see no harm in agreeing with both sides.

    Know what I mean?
  3. Bob Slydell

    Bob Slydell Active Member

    Hell, I just tell them what I think. If they don't like it, don't ask. If I think they got screwed, I'd tell them. If the call was right, I'll tell them that too.
  4. captzulu

    captzulu Member

    You are not supposed to not have an opinion; you're just supposed to keep your opinion out of your story. I won't volunteer my opinion, but if the source asks and you know they aren't the type to get all pissy because you might not see things their way, then tell them and explain why you feel this or that way. If you think they aren't going to take it well, feed them vagueness.
  5. Bob Slydell

    Bob Slydell Active Member

    I definitely keep my opinion out of the story. But if they ask what I thought of a play or call, I'll tell him. It has no effect on the story I write. If one coach thinks it's the worst call since Dierdecker (or whatever his name is) in 1985 then I'll write that he thought so.

    I don;t really care if they take it well or not. But I've only had that hapen a couple of time anyway.
  6. Bucknutty

    Bucknutty Member

    If you have any hopes of developing a relationship with said coach that could lead to better quotes and better candor with him or her, give your opinion when asked. Absolutely.
  7. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    I wasn't paying attention, Coach, I was thinking about your daughter naked again
  8. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Seriously, if it's a longterm/controversial issue (Are you a fan of the Podunk Pioneers or the rival Piddlywink Piranhas? Do you agree that the principal should fire AD Bernie Blockhead? Shouldn't my son be starting in place of Sammy Setshot?) keep your mouth shut.

    You agree or disagree with the person asking and they are likely to spread it around and it won't be Randy Reporter likes the Piranhas a smidgen more, it will be that Randy Reporter hates the Podunk team!

    Best to say that you are just writing a story and have to remain objective.

    On one-time things like calls or something, that's not so much your opinion and your judgment. No harm, really in responding except perhaps to look foolish if you don't know the rulebook or something.

    I always give the "I didn't see it so well" or "You couldn't really tell by the replay" unless it's someone I trust.
  9. dawgpounddiehard

    dawgpounddiehard Active Member

    When interviewing someone who has a strong opinion on something, whether I agree or disagree, my side of the conversation goes like this: (Aside from the well thought out and hard-hitting questions. :))

    "Yeah... uh-huh... sure... yeah... yup.... I see what you're saying... uh-huh... OK, Jim Bumfuck, thanks for your time."
  10. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

  11. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Sorry, Randy.
  12. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, these weren't "did he blow the call" type questions. It was more like, "You're a sports reporter, does that seem like a fair decision to you?" or "do you think he should get away with that?" type of stuff.

    I'd say I generally lean toward keeping my trap shut because, as captzulu pointed out, we're not supposed to have opinions on this stuff. Even if my opinion doesn't come close to getting in the story, telling those sources my opinion would likely lead to it getting out. Once it's out, it colors the way people read your story. They LOOK for your opinion in it, even if it's not there.
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