Saturday, June 30, 2007
The American Journalism Review has a lengthy, but interesting take on the topic. There is one thing I want to highlight.
As journalists, by contrast, "We've presented a balanced picture to the public. But is it accurate? Is it authentic?" She cites coverage of the global warming debate, which, until recently, often was presented as an equal argument between scientists who said global warming was occurring and scientists who denied it. "That reality was not authentic. There were very few scientists who refuted the body of evidence" supporting global warming, Wagner says, yet the coverage did not always reflect that.
"Every issue can be portrayed as a controversy between two opposite sides, and the journalist is fearful of saying that one side has it right, and the other side does not. It leaves the reader or viewer in the position of having to weigh competing truth claims, often without enough information to decide that one side is manifestly right, and the other side is trying to muddy the water with propaganda."
He borrows Eric Alterman's phrase "working the ref" to illustrate his point about balance. Instead of "reading a story and finding out that black is black, you now read a story and it says, 'Some say black is black, and some say black is white.'.. So whether it's climate change or evolution or the impact on war policy of various proposals, it's all being framed as 'on the one hand, on the other hand,' as though the two sides had equal claims on accuracy."
That in a nutshell is one of my chief gripes. Black is black, white is white. Saying there "is controversy" about which is correct or even worse saying well isn't it all gray in the end is not truth telling. Shouldn't that be the primary focus? It would be better to spell names wrong, mistake what day something happened rather than not deliver the truth because it's not "balanced".
Solomon had this baby splitting dilemna solved thousands of years ago.