Saturday, February 1, 2014

She said, he said: A lame excuse for balance

It was a small post. A reporter at the local paper claimed to have balanced his coverage of a political speech by seeking out and publishing the comments of a well known political adversary of the speaker.

Did the reporter question the speaker's statements? Did the reporter think the claims being made were simply bold-faced political puffery? Why did the reporter not simply report what was said and move on? Considering the source for the alternate point of view, I really don't know the answer. The reporter consulted Joe Fontana, the present Mayor of London, Ontario, a man who needs no introduction, as they say.

In my original post, I called the balance obtained by contacting Fontana an example of faux balance. A more accurate label of what was done might be "she-said-he-said-journalism." How does this work?
  • Take a public statement and create a dispute.
  • Conflicts make news; The created dispute will be newsworthy.
  • Make no attempt to assess validity of claims, claims which are the very essence of the story.
  • The symmetry of two sides provides the necessary faux balance.
And how do reporters respond to criticism like the above? They attack the messenger. Newspaper reporters believe this is good journalism. It is balanced.

Balanced? I am left shaking my head in disbelief.

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