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Media Smarts: Fact or Opinion

Media Smarts

When you watch, hear, or read something in the media it may be a wee bit difficult to decide if something is fact or opinion. 

A fact is a statement (or information) that can be proven to be true or false.

An opinion is an expression of someone’s feelings or beliefs that cannot be proven. Here is the tricky part – opinions can be based on some facts, but also may contain emotions or misinformation, attitudes, judgments, or a deliberate attempt to mislead. 

This is an example of a fact: “If there were fewer cars and trucks on the roads, there would be less air pollution.” 

This is an opinion: “Do you like breathing in poisonous car exhaust? There are too many cars on the road, and they are polluting the air so we should drive half as much.”

The opinion is not false – but it is an opinion because the writer is saying there is a solution. It is based on some facts, BUT is offering a solution, in the writer’s opinion. There are other solutions – such as, electric cars, tighter emission laws to name two. Also note that the opinion contains emotion.  This is often a giveaway that the statement or message is an opinion. 

Facts can be reliable. Opinions can be reliable.  However, it is helpful to know the difference. 

Read these and decide, fact or opinion.

“People who sneeze without covering their mouth are disgusting and do not care for others.”

“Sneezing can spread a virus, so cover your mouth.” 

“The annual report for the Gaspé Spec confirms that postage costs have risen.”

“Postage costs are sky-high because of the Postal Workers’ Union who control Canada Post.”

“Many scientists suspect that COVID-19 can be eliminated by 2021.”

“According to scientific studies, COVID-19 may be with us for years.”

(Those sentences are Opinion, Fact, Fact, Opinion, Opinion, Fact.)

Today, have a close look at a few things you read or hear in the media. Examine them and decide if they are fact or opinion. Write a few down and discuss with a friend.  This is an important skill to have in understanding what is being presented to you in the media. 

Is it fact or an opinion?  It is beneficial (and empowering) to know the difference