journalism, politics

Is balance no longer fair?

This Washington Post essay asserting that the Republicans have basically withdrawn from mainstream thought is going to get a bit of attention, to say the least. The pertinent comment for journalists:

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

And then this:

We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

So are journalists now in an impossible situation in which a “balanced” view plays right into extremists’ hands, while calling out extremism will surely open the floodgates to bias accusations?

(via Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem. – The Washington Post.)

Something else in the Post Outlook section, “Five Myths About Conservative Voters,” raises other questions. If conservative voters don’t think the way the media think they think, then are the media misrepresenting their desires? And are journalists wrong in thinking that what we heard in the GOP primaries reflects what GOP rank-and-file voters really want?


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