Should journalists give equal time to every side of a particular political or social issue? According to the Pew Research Center, “a little more than half of the journalists surveyed (55%) say that every side does not always deserve equal coverage in the news.” The American people, however, have a different opinion.
Here is Pew:
Journalists in the United States differ markedly from the general public in their views of “bothsidesism” – whether journalists should always strive to give equal coverage to all sides of an issue – according to a recent Pew Research Center study. A little more than half of the journalists surveyed (55%) say that every side does not always deserve equal coverage in the news. By contrast, 22% of Americans overall say the same, whereas about three-quarters (76%) say journalists should always strive to give all sides equal coverage.
A new analysis of these survey findings shows that attitudes among both journalists and the public differ by age and political factors. Opinions among journalists also vary based on how they view the issue of misinformation, while opinions among Americans overall vary based on their trust in the news.
The issue of whether to try to provide equal coverage to all sides gained new intensity during Donald Trump’s presidency and the widespread disinformation and competing views surrounding the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic. While some feel that equal coverage is always necessary to allow the public to be equally informed about multiple sides of an argument, those who disagree argue that people making false statements or unsupported conjectures do not warrant as much attention as those making factual statements with solid supporting evidence.
Read the rest here.
This is one of those “it depends” questions. Do both sides have rational arguments? Or is one side telling only far fetched lies and conspiracies. People polled may be longing for the debates of the past.
Papers have always used discretion in publishing letters to the editor. The difference between a mere citizen and a public official was generally assumed to be one purely of status. Public officials got quoted in reporting because they were significant players, even if their notions were a little weird. A doctor or professor’s letter to the editor usually got published for the same reason. But a mere citizen might or not be important, depending on the merit of what they had to say. Someone who had witnessed a concrete danger to the public or who had an entertaining but harmless story got published. Someone ranting about the Elders of Zion putting chemicals in the water or manipulating the nation into war did not.
But now, we have public officials and even nominal experts whose ideas are no more well-founded than those of the street-corner ranters of yesteryear, but which are far more harmful given their platform. Journalists have to ask themselves what their responsibilies are in such a situation. When a congressperson’s statements are the moral equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, they can no longer be as laissez faire about the matter as they might have once preferred.
John Fea says
Yes. The filters are gone.