Crackpots brought to you by 'balance"
April 27, 2000 4:28 AM   Subscribe

Crackpots brought to you by 'balance" is a piece over at the Boston Globe on the state of the media today. It focuses on the media's handling of the whole Elian G. business, but it also takes a different angle on the more general matter of being journalistically 'fair' . . . which I thought interesting too in the light of growth of online fora and web logs (and perhaps also ask-an-expert sites?) which are coming to be considered as legitimate news resources.
posted by mrpalomar (7 comments total)
Well, you know, I was thinking to myself this morning, while I was in the crapper, that it's a shame that it's becoming necessary to apply my maxim "Always ask yourself: what are this person's motives in telling me this" to journalism.

That was always supposed to be the *point* of "journalism": that you didn't *have* to ask that.

As far as "new media" are concerned, I think every person, consciously or unconsciously, applies their own confidence factor to each source they follow, based on their reading of it, and on how it's played: journalism or editorial.
posted by baylink at 8:09 AM on April 27, 2000

What about when there are more than two sides to the story? I know I oughta come up with an example, but haven't the media turned too many complex issues into a pair of simplistic opposites in order to support their claims of "balance"?
posted by harmful at 8:21 AM on April 27, 2000

the purpose of journalism is to fill the space that isn't taken up by the department store ads.

(end troll)

it's much easier to have two sides to the stories told than however many there might be. reason one? space. look at usa today, and the changes it hath wrought within the idea of the non-jump-page article, even. it's a *thin* paper, compared to even smaller-market gannett papers.

and of course there's an infoglut out there, to be sure, and so the expected reader reactions are: 1) try to absorb as much as possible, resulting in a wide-but-shallow swath of knowledge (hence that horrific 'state by state news page' in usa today); or 2) become an expert on one thing and get into that really deeply (i'm thinking of slashdot, here, and also other specialized weblogs, as well as politically slanted (oh yeah, well, pretty much all of mainstream journalism, being a for-profit enterprise, is slanted towards the idea of making money, but let's leave that tiny fact out of the argument for the moment) magazines like the nation, etc).

and what does it result in? lots of fragmented sides of people entrenched in their own sliver of the debate yelling at each other and not even attempting to understand one another. which then all, to simplify for reasons of space, boils down to two sides of people yelling, and then you're right back at the beginning ...
posted by maura at 10:39 AM on April 27, 2000

Actually, the thought occurs to me: isn't it sort of our job as webloggers to provide some of that balance by finding the two or three other presentations of a given news story, pulling them all together, and commenting on them... for whatever our particular hobbyhorse might be?

Well, maybe it's not out 'job', but certainly some of us *do* that, and I personally like those writeups the best.

Of course, maybe it's just me.

So many things are just me.
posted by baylink at 10:51 AM on April 27, 2000

One other thought:

I was pleased to see that the public appears both to think the government exercised as much patience as was justified, and that they're not real impressed with the media on this one.

Is sanity breaking out?
posted by baylink at 11:06 AM on April 27, 2000

i think that the commentary by webloggers just adds to the noise, though; how many articles do you usually read before you provide your opinion on a particular situation? what filters are those articles written through? what were the holes in the research behind the articles?

while it's true that the 'facts' of any situation are wholly subjective, i worry about the noise offered by the weblogging community, if only because (and i think we've all seen this happen) it usually only serves to further distort whatever picture might really be in existence.

primary sources rule!
posted by maura at 12:57 PM on April 27, 2000

"lots of fragmented sides of people entrenched in their own sliver of the debate yelling at each other and not even attempting to understand one another. which then all, to simplify for reasons of space, boils down to two sides of people yelling,and then you're right back at the beginning ..." Sounds like /. (most of the time anyway).

How I see it is that while there indeed many sides to a story--everyone can't all be standing in the same space, after all--there's really ultimately only one story--that is, one reality that has consequences for everyone concerned.
I think the press should have backed off from--but not ignored, mind you--the whole Elian business--the kid would certainly have suffered less . . . . And maybe sanity is breaking out. (One can hope, at least . . . .)
posted by mrpalomar at 6:54 AM on April 28, 2000

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