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Media Distrust

Gallup reports that U. S. Distrust in Media Hits New High. Unfortunately, I suspect this distrust does not reflect a dismay at the amount of inaccurate information and a desire to get accurate information whatever the cost. I suspect that it’s more because of the large number of partisans who think their party, candidate, or favorite issue is not getting favorable treatment.

I too distrust the media, but my problem is that our journalists are trying for balance rather than for accuracy. The way they try to produce balance is by calling on people from both sides of any particular issue and having them argue. Since they have representatives of both sides, the reporting must be fair. No? In my view, most issues have more than two sides, and often having a Republican and a Democrat provide commentary doesn’t even cover two sides.

Evaluations of media fairness frequently involve counting positive and negative stories about a candidate or issue, and if the counts are right, then the coverage is fair.

There are several problems with this. One candidate or the other might be providing more fodder for negative stories than the other. If one candidate has more scandal is it to be expected that the media will manage to somehow keep the reporting equal? The problem here is that people can’t agree on just what is a real scandal.

That’s why I’d rather have the journalists themselves evaluate what they’re presenting and give their reasons and evidence. This is one of the reasons I like organizations like Politifact. I frequently disagree with their rating of a story, but they generally provide enough information such as the source of studies, details, additional context and so forth, for me to make at least a preliminary judgment, and pointers to information if I think I need to find more.

I think that our entire approach to media fairness should be scrapped. Identify biases, go in depth, and provide references. TV and radio programs can provide such references through their web sites. Over time I suspect the internet will adjust for bias by allowing people to select their own range of stories and opinion shows. That’s how I get my news already.

 

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