Let’s not mix up facts and opinion writes Andy Mitchell

For news junkies like journalists, there doesn’t seem to have been any let up in new lines about the story of our time over the last 15 months.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 1:00 pm
Woman wearing a mask

Every day brings with it a new set of stats, a new interpretation by Government Ministers, and yet another set of guidelines we have to make sense of, and broadcast to a baffled public.

We eagerly await the 4pm figures to chart the progress of the graphs.

A non -stop supply of facts, is, of course, welcome, and is what we report as news.

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It’s fair to say the latest twists and turns of the pandemic have become addictive for those of us tasked with interpreting all the information, and then processing it in a way an anxious public will appreciate.

What we hadn’t predicted over the last year, is how some people have come to rely on random Facebook postings and tripe they’ve read on other social media platforms to form their own opinion of the world around them.

Fact checking has become a daily chore to ensure information that reaches the accredited news rooms is accurate, honest and reliable.

Two strands have emerged to challenge journalism over the last few months. One is the circulation of damaging untruths, mainly surrounding the efficacy of vaccines, which people hitherto regarded as right-minded members of society, have suddenly, with fervent enthusiasm decided that if comments columns are where they get their “news” then it must be the truth.

To be fair, Facebook has started highlighting viewpoints that are unfounded, but of course it can never stop the conspiracy theories.

The other strand concerns the ever-growing list of “experts” offering their opinion. Now there’s nothing wrong with opinion, after all you’re reading an opinion column. However we must never mix up opinion with the facts as reported in the news.

An example would be the irritating “expert” drafted onto national radio last week to proclaim that “We’ll be wearing masks forever” Such ridiculous statements are upsetting, and can cause major concern for an already anxious public.

What we need at this stage of the game are pure facts. I believe normality is in sight, but we need to get people listening to the truth, or heaven knows where it will all end.

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