I’ve written many times about the discipline of verification — the subject of chapter 4 in The Elements of Journalism. Among the things this chapter cogently discusses is the near profession-wide misunderstanding of objectivity. The word is supposed to indicate a process of gathering and testing information; it was never meant to indicate a philosophical or political stance.
Kovach & Rosentstiel argue that the process — the methods — have been “intensely personal and idiosyncratic,” i.e. no discipline at all. They spend a lot of time in the latter half of the chapter attempting to describe what a discipline of verification might look like. Indeed, I think what they are really doing is creating one if its first articulations.
I plan to examine their discipline and add a few methods of my own. But for now I want to make something plain regarding opinion journalism: Its practitioners are subject to the same discipline because they are subject to the same craft — namely reporting. To the extent that a person peddling opinion reports and verifies, he or she may be called an opinion journalist. To the extent that a person fails to do these things, he or she may be called a pundit (acknowledging that pundits may also report and verify on occasion).
Both deal with opinion. And both may deal in useful opinion, i.e. opinion with a high degree of civic utility for the citizen.
The difference is that the opinions of the opinion journalist should spring from the craft of journalism first.