171. Is media balance a concept misunderstood with dire consequences?
When considering the climate change denial campaign I covered in entry 169, one of the most salient practices of the strategy orchestrated by the oil industry is the use of pseudoscientists, either in the oil industry’s payroll, or ideologically motivated, to plausibly introduce doubt. This practice is enabled, even supported, by the media’s misunderstanding of balance. Editors seem to think balance consists of allowing both sides of an argument to be presented in equal terms, to eliminate bias. This is eminently right when dealing with ideology and opinion, and in these cases the practice should be supported. But it should not extend to dealing with verifiable facts. When those presenting verifiable facts and those fighting them with demonstrable lies and confusion (read Brexit, climate change denial or hydroxicloroquine peddling, for example) are given equal airtime, this is not balanced reporting, but a dereliction of duty by our media and a betrayal of the confidence placed on it
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