The Collegian
Friday, May 24, 2024

Sickness of balance

I agree with the diagnosis, oft-cited by Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, that establishment media is losing its way because of its insistence on balance for balance's sake. Paul Krugman, despite being part and parcel of that establishment, agrees.

The most pressing problem with the mainstream media is not that is liberal, that it is elitist, that it generates its own news cycles and that it is funded by corporations whose motives do not align with those of the journalists it sustains, but rather that it draws false equivalencies. The essence of journalism, as we are taught in our classes, is verification. However, what has come of that principle? Why is the press so often so hesitant when it comes to reporting the veracity of competing claims? There are certain things that are true in the physical world, and reporting competing claims as if they are, and could possibly be, both legitimate, is a terrible form of distortion, since as journalists, the words we write and the reports we broadcast invariably, and tacitly, lend credence.

I will cite two examples from contemporary media, but for my conclusion, I will demonstrate how the sickness of "balance" has afflicted me as a collegiate journalist.

Example 1: Fewer Americans Believe in Global Warming

Summary: "The poll of 1,500 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that only 57 percent believe there is strong scientific evidence the Earth has gotten hotter over the past few decades, and as a result, people are viewing the situation as less serious. That's down from 77 percent in 2006, and 71 percent in April 2008."

Even if one were to dispute the possibility that global warming is a consequence of man-made reagents, one cannot dispute that global warming exists. The media has failed the public by not being unequivocal enough in its presentation of fact and in its admonishment of fallacy. Is it a sign of bias to disabuse? Veracity has become less important than "balance," and it is not enough to blame the propagandists. They have made tools out of us, since they have learned how to best use us to induce tacit credence for their talking points. The citizenry deserves better.

Example 2: In 2006, 43 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11

Summary: "Asked whether former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 52 percent said he was not, but 43 percent said they believe he was."

Is it enough to accurately report what those in power tell us? We are not amplifiers; we are vanguards of history. We are the fourth estate, and we cannot keep shying away from taking a stance on issues that are demonstrably false. We are not biased if we do; we become biased if we don't.

Last week, The Collegian published my news article on a Sharia Law town hall that featured discussion and disagreement.

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Upon receiving objections, my superiors took out the last paragraph that read: "Islam, like all religions, has no basis in science, and the discussions did not tackle the issue of undue divinity provided to edicts that are many eons old, and are inherently arbitrary."

If an axiom is unfounded in rationality, of what use is debating the theorems derived from that axiom? Imagine if the Flat Earth Society had a town hall, and in my article, I said nothing to the extent of the Earth not being flat! Yet, as a journalist, I may not broach Islam, lest I make an editorialized comment. This has got to change.

As a journalist, my allegiance lies with the truth.

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