There is nothing wrong with someone giving their opinion, that is a given right here in the United Kingdom through the freedom of expression. However, there is an issue when opinion meets ‘expert opinion’ on media platforms like tabloids.
The two are generally implied to be equal in order to push the tabloids’ narrative forward. One such narrative is that Meghan Markle is manipulative, disingenuous, prideful, vain, and other adjectives that can be summed up to mean nasty.
Although Markle is not the only example that will be examined in this article, it makes sense to start with her given how much coverage the actress-turned-duchess continues to receive after it was recently announced that she and her husband, Prince Harry, will leave their royal life behind.
Before we begin, I would like to ask you, as you read through the article, to consider what the dangers are of implying that fact and opinion are the same thing. Further still, what does such an act say about the importance of truth in journalism?
Throughout her short time with the Royal Family, Meghan Markle has been bashed by British tabloids for her clothing, her appearances or lack thereof, her finances, and practically anything else you can imagine.
One such example, circulating during Markle’s pregnancy, was an article by the Daily Mail that claimed to have ‘expert’ analysis on why she constantly had a hand on her baby-bump. On the surface it might not seem as though there is a negative connotation behind it, but the headline proves otherwise; ‘Why can’t Meghan Markle keep her hands off her bump? Experts tackle the question that has got the nation talking: Is it pride, vanity, acting — or a new age bonding technique?‘
Many of the so-called experts, who mostly have the negative opinions of Markle that the Daily Mail is searching for, are simply commentators, editors or journalists, not those with credentials at the level of, say, a doctor who could give scientific information that could paint a more realistic, factual picture as to why Markle might be keeping a hand on her belly.
By placing the word ‘expert’ next to someone’s name when examining a topic concerning mental and maternal health, the author of the article is attempting to put more validity into the narrative they are working to popularize. A fashion journalist, used for the Meghan piece, clearly does not have the same medical credentials as a doctor.
For Daily Mail readers, seeing the word expert next to someone’s name tells them that they can believe what that person has to say; that they have some sort of credibility — even if the said person is not actually an expert concerning what is being discussed in the article.
The article does quote legitimate experts, whether they be professors, psychologists, body language experts, or doctors. Most of whom state that Markle holding her belly is a good thing, or that it is not disingenuous — the exact opposite of what the commentators and journalists have said.
The Daily Mail‘s article engages in something that is downright dangerous. It equates the level of expertise from a doctor with that of a fashion journalist. We know why tabloids embrace such frivolities but it is still important to examine what the danger is and its potential consequences.
If an article is published covering a topic or specific person that could sway one’s opinion on that topic or person, it is important that there is a distinction between those who are experts and those who are not. To not make the distinction is to say that fact and opinion are synonymous. This can have a serious impact on what society accepts as the truth.
Where are people supposed to turn to for the truth if not journalism?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, there is no disputing that. However, claiming that those whom you cite in your article are experts implies that each person quoted is an expert in the topic that is being covered in the article.
To then suggest, as the article does, that an editor of a magazine knows as much about mental health as a psychologist, is not what journalism should be. Once upon a time it was about truth-telling.
We have experienced a mishandling of the truth here at Shout Out UK too, when we collaborated on a project with Drillminister in an attempt to get young people to vote. Once again, the Daily Mail wrote an article saying that Drillminister ‘shoots’ Boris Johnson in his music video and stabs a politician. In actuality, neither of those claims are true. Since then, the Daily Mail was forced to take down the article.
This article has only highlighted two events in which a widely read publication pushes their own narrative forward instead of telling their readers the truth. If we accept this — being lied to by those who should be informing us — then we have taken freedom of expression for granted, and are being abused by the ‘free’ press.