High school journalism teacher and media critic James Miller explains why objective reporting doesn’t mean that both sides of an issue carry equal weight — and sometimes, there’s more than one side!
The problem is that modern journalism has “built-in blind spots” located in its middle-of-the-road, “View From Nowhere” perspective. Many reporters are trying so hard to present the views of “both sides” without comment or bias that they neglect to report the fact that one (or both!) of those sides is fraudulent, false, or at the very least utterly unsupported by facts. As Paul Krugman noted way back in 2000, “If a presidential candidate were to declare that the earth is flat, you would be sure to see a news analysis under the headline ‘Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.’”
We don’t have to jump ahead to 2019 to witness journalists bending over backward to present advocates of fact-free views alongside members of the reality-based community as if their points of view held equal merit:
- News media coverage of the Ken Ham-Bill Nye debate at the Creation Museum sparked its own debate among Louisville journalists
- The Sunday talk shows recently pretended that global warming deniers have something valuable to contribute to the discussion about climate change
- PBS devoted nearly half of a 2012 segment about climate change to an uncredentialed radio weatherman
- In 2010, Fox News treated a vaccine-autism “truther” as if her claims had actual merit, allowing her to “rebut” a doctor and using “Autism Correlation Coverup?” as an onscreen graphic
- Many stories on the government shutdown in October 2013 were plagued with false equivalency, including CNN’s notion that the whole thing was a game of chicken for which “both sides” were to blame
Read Miller’s entire piece here — and consider how fortunate his high school students are to be in his class.