I guess I shouldn’t complain when reporters try to do the right thing by going for ‘balance’ in their reporting, reflecting viewers’/readers’ belief that there are two sides to every story. Otherwise, we end up with puff pieces which can be nothing more than advertorials (see earlier writings on Elmore Oil here and here – and stand by for some new developments in my investigation of it!).
However, sometimes balanced reporting can be worse than just providing only one side, because it can give the viewer the impression that the two sides are equally valid. For example, I could do a report interviewing an astronomer on the shape of the Earth, and then interview some nut-job telling us why the Earth is actually flat, then finish with a throw-away ‘you be the judge’ line.
When one side just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, giving it airtime can lead to a misleading impression of it. In many cases, it just provides a forum for unfounded assertions, based on lots of noise and ‘sciency’ terminology.
My belief is that this is just laziness or ignorance on the part of the reporter. They haven’t bothered to form an opinion, or understand the real issues – the classic cases being the climate change issue. Another good example is the anti-vaccination movement (I nearly wrote ‘debate’ – but it’s not a debate at all: there’s the science, and then there’s ill-informed scare-mongering). Other good examples are magic remedies such as homeopathy and Elmore oil.
However, there is cause for optimism. In recent times we have seen two excellent examples in which the reporters have put themselves on the line and have backed the science against nonsense, one by Tracy Spicer confronting the anti-vaccination issue (well done Tracy!), and the other a Canadian doco called Marketplace (on youtube in two parts) investigating the homeopathy scam.
They are below for your listening/viewing pleasure. Enjoy.
First Tracy’s radio interview:
And the Canadian documentary: