"Journalism isn't stenography "


Locutus
#1
The late Democratic senator and all-around sage Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it best: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."

There have been, are and always will be plenty of issues to argue about. What's the best way to improve the economy? How do we solve the immigration crisis? What should we do about (insert international flashpoint)? What's so good about goodbye?

But there are also things that just are. Night follows day. The world is round, not flat. Brazil is really, really disappointed.
Which brings us to the BBC Trust and climate change.

The Trust, which oversees Britain's prestigious public broadcasting operations, recently issued a report chastising the Beeb's journalists for devoting entirely too much time and attention to climate change deniers.

Since 2010, the BBC has provided training to staffers to help them do a better job of covering science properly. But apparently the lessons haven't sunk in.


The report found that thanks to the "over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality," the BBC continues to give "undue attention to marginal opinion" when it comes to climate change and other scientific concerns.

"The key point the workshops tried to impart is that impartiality in science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views, which may result in a 'false balance,' " the report said. "More crucially it depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given. In this respect, editorial decisions should be guided by where the scientific consensus might be found on any given topic, if it can in fact be determined."

That, of course doesn't mean freezing out dissenting voices. But it also doesn't mean you should give equal space or airtime to established truth on the one hand and reality-challenged people who don't like it on the other.

And climate change is a classic example. There is an overwhelming consensus among scientists that human activities are causing global warming.

But it's hardly the only example. The BBC Trust report shines a bright light on a problem that continues to haunt journalism, not just on science stories and not just across the pond.

No matter what the news media's many critics believe, most journalists endeavor to be fair, to give both sides rather than choose sides. In that effort, there's a tendency to print what someone says, print what the other side says and call it a day.

The trouble is, there isn't always equal merit on both sides. So, in instances where one side is largely fact-based, and the other is spouting obvious nonsense, treating both sides equally isn't balanced. It's misleading.

Often journalists are reluctant to state the conclusions that stem from their reporting, out of the concern that they will appear partisan or biased. But just laying out both positions without going further in an effort to establish the truth can create the false balance that the BBC Trust is so worried about. And that doesn't do much good for the readers and the viewers.

Among the worst offenders are cable and the Sunday morning network public affairs shows, where the default position is to get two people on opposite sides of an issue and let them duke it out. The result is often fireworks at the expenses of enlightenment.

One of the healthy developments in recent years has been the rise of fact-checking in American journalism. Huge props go to two outfits that do it for a living: FactCheck.org, an initiative of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, launched in 2003, and PolitiFact, started by the Tampa Bay Times in 2007.

REM RIEDER: Fact-checking keeps (some?) politicians honest

Both organizations give in-depth examinations to the pronouncements of public officials and assess their veracity. Other outlets have embraced the cause, and PolitiFact has entered partnerships with news organizations to do fact-checking on the local level.

It was this type of reporting, for example, that debunked President Obama's assertion that if you liked your health plan you could keep it under the Affordable Care Act.

What's critical is that conclusions are based on facts, not the outlook of the reporter.

Journalism isn't stenography. It's not treating everything the same when it's not the same. It's about giving citizens information about public affairs that is as accurate as possible. (Well, it's also about Justin Bieber and the Kardashians now there's a rock group name but that's a different column.)

Thanks to the BBC Trust for giving us that healthy reminder.


Rieder: The danger of false balance in journalism
 
tay
+2
#2  Top Rated Post
The BBC has said it will only allow scientific facts as rebuttal, not just some blowhard Oil backed yapper rambling on fact less claims, like that great American news station does or the Separatist led Sun media........












 
taxslave
+1
#3
Still drinking the koolaid I see.
 
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