Not all news is created equal, and not all features within a particular news product are held to one standard — that is to say, some elements within a news product are meant to be fair and unbiased, while others are meant to be opinionated commentaries that may sway your point of view.
Newspapers: Check the Index
To know what you’re reading, whether it’s a printed newspaper or online, it most likely has an index with various categories. These will tell you where to find objective news or opinion pieces.
News: Unbiased, objective reporting of an event. Both sides of the story should be fairly represented so the article is balanced. News deemed to be the most interesting to the majority of the readers appears on the front page.
Features: A feature story gives a writer latitude to be more descriptive than a news story. News features will go more in-depth than a straight news article, and can often make you feel like you are a part of the story.
Columns: Columns appear in the news section, but are not intended to be objective reports. Instead, a reporter often gives a first-hand account of a story that’s currently in the news. Columns allow the writer latitude to work in his or her own opinion.
News Analysis: These types of stories will focus on an issue currently in the news and give opinions by a variety of experts of “what it all means.” Typically, there’s a lot of speculation in analysis pieces.
Editorial: The editorial is an opinion issued by the newspaper. Sometimes, editorials are written by the editor of the newspaper. Often, especially at large dailies, the editorial represents the publisher’s opinion. Editorials are meant to persuade the reader to agree with the opinion as it is presented. For balance, it’s recommended to read how the issue was covered in the news section.
Op.Ed.: An op.ed. is a commentary, usually by an expert, opining on a particular issue of general interest. It may or may not be a topic that’s currently being covered in the news. Op.ed. means “opposite the editorial,” which is where these commentaries traditionally appeared in newspapers.
Obituaries: A news story of the death of someone within the community.
Tribute: Usually a paid feature, a tribute will written by the family of a deceased person.
Advertisement: Paid content, provided by the advertiser to position the advertiser in a positive way. Ads may be any size.
Advertorial: Also paid content, but designed to look like a news story. Usually, an advertorial is marked “Advertorial,” but not always.
Classified Ad: The tiny ads that sell cars, boats, furniture and the like. The cost of these ads is usually determined by the number of words. Traditionally, classified ads have been regarded as a classic economic indicator: A lot of classified ads illustrate people are actively buying and selling.
News: Objective coverage of an event.
Feature: A longer, more detailed news story.
Commentary: Not usually included in television news, but sometimes. As above, commentary is an opinion meant to persuade.
Talk Shows: These are very different than news shows and, at times, it may be hard to tell the difference between a news show and a talk show. Talk shows often discuss news and current events, but people appearing on talk shows know beforehand what will be discussed. Often, they are provided with the questions in advance, so the people are prepared and prepped before the show. Not sure if it’s talk or it’s news? Check the TV listings, or refer to the show’s web site to see how the show is described.
Game Shows: Some game shows have elements of news, but are not news shows or talk shows. Game shows end with someone winning a prize, which is the key difference between a game show and a talk show.
Reality Shows: Reality shows, like game shows, also end with someone winning a prize. But, unlike game shows, reality shows have the latitude to control the outcome of the show. Here, “reality” means the show producer’s desired reality.