False balance

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False balance is a real or perceived media bias, where journalists present an issue as being more balanced between opposing viewpoints than the evidence actually supports. Journalists may present evidence and arguments out of proportion to the actual evidence for each side, or may censor information which would establish one side's claims as baseless.

For example, "objective coverage" of lynching in the 1890s by US journalists failed "to recognize a truth, that African-Americans were being terrorized across the nation."[1] False balance is often found in political reports,[2][3][4] company press releases, and general information from entities with special interest groups in promoting their respective agendas.

Other examples of false balance in reporting on science issues include the topics of man-made vs. natural climate change, the relation between Thiomersal and autism[5] and evolution vs. intelligent design.[6] For instance, although the scientific community attributes a component of climate change of the last 50–100 years, particularly global warming, to the effects of the industrial revolution,[7][8][9][10] there are a small number of scientists who dispute this conclusion.[11][12][13] Giving equal voice to scientists on both sides makes it seem like there is a serious disagreement within the scientific community, when in fact there is an overwhelming scientific consensus favoring anthropogenic global warming.

False balance can sometimes originate from similar motives as sensationalism, where producers and editors may feel that a story portrayed as a contentious debate will be more commercially successful than a more accurate account of the issue. However, unlike most other media biases, false balance may actually stem from an attempt to avoid bias; producers and editors may confuse treating competing views fairly—i.e., in proportion to their actual merits and significance—with treating them equally, giving them equal time to present their views even when those views may be known beforehand to be based on false information.[14]

See also

References

  1. Mindich, David T. Z (1998). Just the Facts: How "objectivity" Came to Define American Journalism. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-5613-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Montopoli, Brian (2004-10-14). "Falling Over Backward Seeking Balance : Columbia Journalism Review". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2011-03-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Post-debate fact checks struck false "balance" for the fourth time". Media Matters for America. 2004-10-14. Retrieved 2011-03-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Rendall, Steve (November 2003). "An Aggressive Conservative vs. a "Liberal to be Determined" : The false balance of Hannity & Colmes". FAIR—Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. Retrieved 2011-03-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  6. Committee on Revising Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2008). Science, Evolution, and Creationism. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-10586-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Joint science academies’ statement: Global response to climate change (PDF), 2005<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. America's Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change; National Research Council (2010). Advancing the Science of Climate Change. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-14588-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  10. Committee on Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years, National Research Council (2006). Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-10225-1. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  12. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  13. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  14. Krugman, Paul (January 30, 2006). "A False Balance". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>