The Problem with “Some People Say” Journalism

September 14, 2016

Kathleen Reardon

On televised news today, expect to hear sentences beginning with “some people say” or “many people think” as a means of positioning a question for an interview or providing support for an opinion being advanced.

And what’s wrong with this practice?  Isn’t it our responsibility as viewers to sift through the hype and huckstering to find shreds of objectivity?

Certainly, we are responsible for carefully considering the sources of what we read and view.  And yet, from decades of persuasion research we know that people often process information without engaging in wariness or counterargument.  At least when we are given the names and titles of experts, we know something about them.  We have information to help decide if they are insightful and credible in their fields of study or work.

How do we know the motives of “some” people?  Who are they?  Where do they come from? How many of them are there?  In what context were their opinions obtained, if at all?

We’d all benefit if journalists refused to use such phrases as “some people say.”  It’s journalistic laziness to not locate and interview highly regarded experts.  The best journalists insist on evidence, on expertise and credibility of sources.  It’s not such a high bar.

 

Kathleen Reardon