ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Fake News: Using Quotes as Facts and the Death of Journalism

Updated on August 10, 2017

The "quote as fact" is killing journalism.

It's among the laziest, most egregious forms of journalism currently practiced. And it's practiced a lot. It's used by many bad journalists who don't have time to do research and instead find some random person to provide them with a quote that supports the point they want to make. Usually, however, it used by bad journalists to provide "balance" to an article.

What is the "quote as fact"?

Let's say you're writing an article on supermarkets. In the article, you're describing the characteristics of various supermarkets and during the course of the article you write: "Whole Foods is more expensive than King Soopers." Instead of providing data to support this assertion, you instead use quotes. You find some random person who says something to the effect of: "I shop both stores and King Soopers usually has better prices." This is the sole support for the article's assertion that Whole Foods is a more expensive supermarket. If you read newspapers often, you will see this tactic used all the time. It's a substitute for data, research, and actual work.

When used for "balance", the "quote as fact" can be even worse, providing legitimacy to ideas for which there is no evidence. Let's use vaccinations for Whooping Cough as an example. A journalist writing an article on the drop in vaccinations for Whooping Cough in a particular area writes a vague story with some generalities about how the incidence of Whooping Cough has risen. The journalist interviews a doctor who says something to the effect of "it's very important to get children vaccinated for Whooping Cough." Then the journalist interviews somebody who decided not to get their child vaccinated and quotes that person who says: "I heard that vaccinations can cause autism, so I didn't get my child vaccinated." The two quotes are given equal weight, but one is backed up by scientific data, while the other is not.

Colorado Floods: Boulder (September 2013)

A pile of ruined stuff piled high in a parking lot.
A pile of ruined stuff piled high in a parking lot.

When the Quote as Fact Becomes Negligent

Using quotes as facts can become negligent when the quote used is from somebody who is misinformed about an important matter. Clearly, using a quote to establish that prices are higher at one supermarket may provide misinformation, but it probably doesn't harm anyone, other than the store that's maligned. When the quote is used to imply information about a critical matter, like flood remediation for example, it can lead to serious problems. Such was the case in the article from The Daily Camera in Boulder concerning the recent flooding in Colorado that occurred in September of 2013. (linked below)

A street is still a river even after the rains have stopped.
A street is still a river even after the rains have stopped.

In the article, the journalist investigates the high cost of flood remediation. The journalist recounts the story of a woman who called a remediation company and was quoted a price of $4500, which she says she thought was high. Although it's not presented as a direct quote, the journalist writes that the woman told him she got the work done for $300 by calling her husband who connected her to "someone."

Anybody see a problem with printing this information?

This is almost like quoting somebody with the following story: "Oh, I knew I needed brain surgery, but I found out it was going to cost $250,000" and that sounded a bit high, so I called my husband and he found somebody to do it for $300."

My point is that anybody can find somebody to do something for less money. The question though, is whether or not the person charging less money is an expert and is going to do the job right.

As somebody who's had to have flood remediation done when I had a sewer back-up in my house, I can tell you that flood remediation is fairly expensive, but that companies who specialize in this know what they're doing. They come in and put the house back in exactly the condition it was before the flood damage. For $300, I'm sure somebody can remove wet carpet, but that's hardly satisfactory when drywall has gotten wet and mold is sure to develop. Yes, $4500 is a lot of money and a larger sum than $300, but the scope of work for those amounts is entirely different.

Journalism is Dangerous

The reason the "quote as fact" has invaded journalism is because most journalists are poorly paid, badly trained, and overworked. Perhaps it's a stretch to write this, but we see an increasing number of people badly misinformed about a whole range of things. The "quote as fact" is undoubtedly a contributor to that. It's use is leading to the end of journalism as a respectable practice.

Are you bothered by newspapers that use quotes in place of facts?

See results

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)