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Why I hate the newspaper industry

by: Eric B.

Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 14:23:31 PM EDT


He said/she said journalism and damnation of false balance, writ large.

Last Sunday’s paper featured dueling columns on the wisdom of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by Cal Thomas (for it) and Fareed Zakaria (against it).

The March 6 paper contained a Kathleen Parker column criticizing Rush Limbaugh and George Will remembering the late sociologist/criminologist James Q. Wilson, along with Michigan columnist Tim Skubick writing about a possible Democratic challenger to Gov. Rick Snyder.

So far, so good.

I guess my point is that on a given day, we may give incrementally more weight to the left or to the right than on another day.

But we are committed to maintaining balance over the long haul so that our readers aren’t cheated and they fully understand the arguments on important public policy issues facing our nation.

Except that he already correctly identified Kathleen Parker as a conservative columnist, which means that on March 6, his paper ran two conservative columnists and one from Tim Skubick, who is mostly apolitical when it comes to the daily grind of campaign politics.

But, take for a second his real point, which is that the newspaper under Paul Keep strives first and foremost for balance. That's what a newspaper is supposed to focus on. The main focus of a newspaper ought to be on excellence and accuracy, not to prevent people from bitching that "liberals" get more ink that conservatives. For instance, last Sunday they had Fareed Zakaria, who doesn't actually align himself with any political ideology but is for shits and giggles assigned the label of "liberal," and notable God Botherer Cal Thomas, who has no specialized training or experience in Islam except that he's an evangelical Christian and as such believes that the troubles and travails of the Middle East are all about him. He also can claim the distinction of being the nation's least accurate pundit. Zakaria, of course, is widely respected for his knowledge and understanding of foreign affairs.

That's not actually balance, unless your definition of balance is that one guy has an idea what he's writing about and the other guy is full of shit. But, it does provide fodder to keep conservatives from calling up and bitching that their viewpoint isn't seen in print, even if their point of view is based entirely on weird fantasy. It might confuse your readers about what is reality, but as long as you can point to a numbers game and say, "Well, you wanted balance, and you've got it" keeping people misinformed is a small price to pay.

Eric B. :: Why I hate the newspaper industry
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Skubick's objectivity (0.00 / 0)
is what makes him a liberal, in the eyes of many conservatives. Anyone who is not overtly right leaning is defined as showing a liberal bias.

Any word on how NPR's stated intention of abandoning the false balance game in favor of actually identifying the truth is going? I tuned them out when they began the whole he-said she-said thing a few years ago under Bush.  


Don't agree (0.00 / 0)
One of the biggest lies in our modern society is that the media should provide "balance".  "Balance" is code comfortableness/comfortability.  It needs to provide, first and foremost, facts and truth.  Sometimes, those thing lead credence to those on one side over the other.  On opinion pieces, a paper should provide whatever in the hell they want, so long as they are honest about what they are selling.

It's totally counterintuitive in today's world to feel this way, but I wish for the early days of journalism where papers were named the "Democrat" or the "Republican" or the "Independent" or simply a name revealing that they weren't a political paper, at all, and everyone knew what they were getting and chose accordingly.



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