I have always been a girl who believes in doing what you love. A believer of passion above everything else. This can be seen as a great way of living your life and seizing each day but sometimes, when responsibilities and tasks which I’m not exactly fond of doing piles up, it would be way easier if I knew how to set my priorities right and maintain a good balance between doing what I like and doing what is supposed to be done. You know when you were still in high school and there was always this one girl who had the world in the palm of her hands. You might think nope, why must it be a girl? Well, I was from a all-girl school, so don’t mind me! She aced examinations, had a pretty vibrant social life and at the same time, excelled in clubs and societies. Yup, she does seem all too familiar, doesn’t she? How she does it?
One word: balance.
Similarly, in journalism, as in life, balance is an indisputably good thing. Why do you think journalists are trained to be unbiased, and to sit on the fence about issues? Because it is from on the fence, that you are able to see both sides of the fence! However, Sullivan suggests that ‘while balance may be important to mediating a dispute between teenage siblings, a different kind of balance — some call it “false equivalence” — has come under ceasing fire.’ In other words, false balance occur and the firing squad being the readers and viewers who depend on legit news reportage to keep them informed.
I think what Sullivan was trying say is that you see, when journalists try to tell ‘both’ sides of the story, they tend to not analyse 100% of both sides. Instead reports come out with 50% legitimacy of both sides. So basically, it is balanced but both sides of the stories are not told in its entirety. A lot of news nowadays are being told both sides but ultimately, it conveys the message favoured to be told by the ownership of the news corporation. And readers are beginning to get fed up because they want the real truth.
Normally, these ‘balanced’ articles are of environmental issues based on scientific research content especially the alarming increase rate of global warming and whether it is human-caused or just a natural fluctuation. So, when it comes to media coverage on global warming, false balance—telling “both” sides of the story—can actually be a form of informational bias. Despite the consistent assertions of the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the global climate is greatly affected by human activities and that global warming is a serious problem that must be addressed immediately, “he said/she said” reporting has allowed global warming skeptics to have their views prioritized. (Boykoff, 2004)
To explain further about how pivotal the role of a reporter/journalist to obey to journalistic code of ethics, for a journalist to be unbiased towards any side of a particular story, he/she must not be involved in terms of membership affiliation with the organisation, be it for or against. However, according to Ward (2009), it is definitely one thing for a journalist to not be a ‘participant’ in the membership organisation, but an entirely different matter for any sentient human being (yup, journalists are sentient humans!), to avoid participation in matters of the environment! So, like it or not, false balance is bound to happen in terms of environment-reporting.
Clearly, the notion of balance is much more complex than it appears on the conceptual surface. But I feel that journalists need to make every effort to get beyond the spin and help readers know what to believe in, to help them make their way through complicated and contentious subjects, such as issues which directly and indirectly affect their lives like climate change.
Ward, B. (2009), ‘Journalism Ethics and Climate Change Reporting in A Period of Intense Media Uncertainty’, Ethics on Science and Environmental Politics, 9, 13-15
Sullivan, M. (2012), ‘He Said, She Said, The Truth’, Public Editor, The New York Times, accessed online on 11/11/13, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/public-editor/16pubed.html?_r=0
Boycoff, J, Boycoff, K. (2004), ‘Creating Controversy Where Science Finds Consensus’, Journalistic Balance as Global Warming Bias, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, accessed online on 11/11/13, http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/Journalistic-Balance-as-Global-Warming-Bias/