If you were born in the last century, you remember the days when facts were the main course. Opinion was dessert.
Things are different now. News is laden with analysis. Analysis is full of opinion. Opinion means an evisceration of political enemies. In America, where they are first in all things, cable TV is a war zone of lacerating attacks. You watch the media outlet that comfits you, no more. Call it poli-tainment. And that is before you consider the stuff trafficked on Facebook.
It may be coming to your news source too. Writing opinion is cheaper than most news gathering. We live in a media world of diminishing revenues and fewer journalists. “Opinion is where we get the most engagement,” a Postmedia executive told me matter-of-factly when I bemoaned the Toronto Sun’s shrinking coverage of hard news. They say facts matter, but not as much as subscription and advertising dollars.
We love skewering the beliefs of the people we disagree with, so much we would often rather not hear about the facts. If only our world was in good enough shape to allow us the indulgence of skewering our political foes. Perhaps getting it right on the existential issues of the day —-climate change, war and peace, and the defense of democratic institutions—- matters more.
Here’s a toast to 2019 and a year of reporting the facts. We are going to need them.