The Responsibility of Information: Reputable News Sources vs. Opinion Pieces

“The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks it.”

Proverbs 18:15

Southern Baptists are living in a very excitable season. Blogs give everyone a voice and social media platforms give everyone an audience. Someone’s post is shared on social media or circulated through email—its headline cleverly crafted to capture attention. When we read a buzzword or phrase that catches our attention, we often believe the source before we investigate or evaluate the truthfulness of what is being said. And when we believe the worst of our excitable impressions, our hearts explode with nuclear options before our brains have time to process the truth of the matter.

“When we believe the worst of our excitable impressions, our hearts explode with nuclear options before our brains have time to process the truth of a matter.” Click To Tweet

A word needs to be said about reputable news sources versus opinion pieces.

This article (this blog) is an opinion piece. No one will review it before I hit “publish,” and even if they did, I would feel no pressure to correct or change the information herein. I am writing whatever my heart desires, from my own experiences and perceptions. If I am wrong, there are no real consequences. Such is the nature of an opinion piece. Some opinion pieces are published on websites that clearly bear the name of the author, like this one. Others are flown under the banner of a more generic (more catchy?) website name. Still others are written directly in a post on social media. Additionally, most reputable news sources have Opinion sections in their regular publications. Readers trust opinion pieces based solely on what they believe to be true of the author, whether from personal experience, the experience of others they know, or the author’s own claims.

Published articles from reputable outlets, whether digital or print, are news articles. The facts contained therein are crosschecked. Delivery is edited and scrutinized. It is true they don’t always get the facts right. It is also true that real facts can sometimes be twisted to fit a writer’s agenda (done regularly, this moves the source from “reputable” toward “disreputable”). But at a basic level, researched and confirmed facts form the basis of a reputable news article from a reputable news source. Readers trust pieces from reputable news sources because they have journalistic checks and balances, often coupled with longevity in the industry.

Chaos ensues when well-intentioned, excitable people read and share opinion pieces as if they are news articles. Twisted facts and misinformation are circulated without fact-checking or confirmation. And before truth can surface, stakes are claimed, sides are formed, and the nuclear option seems to be the only option. 

“The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.”

Proverbs 10:14

Don’t be a fool when it comes to information consumption or information propagation. Here are some suggestions:

1. Know the difference between news articles and opinion pieces, and between news sites and opinion sites. For news in Southern Baptist life, I would recommend giving the most weight to your State Baptist paper and the Baptist Press.

2. Become painfully aware of your own biases. If your heart wants something to be true, it will often shove facts through the funnel of your preconceptions before they reach your intellect. Slow down your reading. Read with the intent to understand. Give others the benefit of the doubt.

“If your heart wants something to be true, it will often shove facts through the funnel of your preconceptions before they reach your intellect. Slow down your reading. Read with the intent to understand. Give others the benefit of the… Click To Tweet

3. If a reported fact seems alarming, either crosscheck facts or wait for a reputable source to report before you believe and/or share the story. If it is eating at your soul, privately call or email the offender for clarification (you know, like Jesus instructed us in Matthew 18), or privately contact a reputable news source for investigation and commentary.

4. Share the truth. Regardless if it fits into your narrative or your agenda, make a steadfast commitment to share the truth. If others have perpetuated lies or twisted opinions, find the truth from a reputable news source and share it with them. Lies enslave people. Truth sets them free. Be a liberator, not an incarcerator.

5. Pray for discernment. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Holy Spirit says your heart is desperately sick. But through the Messiah Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells every believer to guide him or her into truth. Sideline your emotions and prayerfully depend on the Holy Spirit for discernment.

We live in an age of information. Some of that information is true and some of it is twisted. Southern Baptist family, I’m praying we will become more diligent and more mature in the consumption and circulation of information.

“Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense,
but a person with understanding keeps silent.”

Proverbs 11:12

“An honest witness does not deceive,
but a dishonest witness utters lies.”

Proverbs 14:5

“A worthless person digs up evil,
his speech is like a scorching fire.
A contrary person spreads conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends.”

Proverbs 16:27-28

“A fool does not delight in understanding,
but only wants to show off his opinion.”

Proverbs 18:2

Grace and Peace,
Tony

  One thought on “The Responsibility of Information: Reputable News Sources vs. Opinion Pieces

  1. Steve Bell
    January 12, 2020 at 12:08 PM

    Wise counsel!

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