Scholastic Journalism Week: Balanced Reporting
Tamara Tracz ('25)
From an ethical standpoint, all journalists have an obligation to be honest, balanced, and unbiased in their work. It’s difficult to achieve all three at the same time, but the attempt calls for journalists to cover each side of an issue equally to ensure that every angle of the story is fairly represented. To quote Lady Gaga, “there can be a hundred people in the room, and 99 don't believe in you, but [if] one does”, then it’s important to give equal weight to each viewpoint because every opinion is valid (with the exception of cruel notions or misinformation). The majority of people didn’t believe in Gaga and yet she turned out pretty amazing, so even if there is a small number of people who hold a certain position on something, that should not diminish the value of their opinion.
However, journalism is not a simple “he says, she says” affair. Journalists also have the power to direct conversation about specific issues. As a result, sometimes their bias and input is necessary; if one side of an argument is obviously morally correct, then it is risky (and sometimes pointless) to showcase the opposing viewpoints. For example, scientific evidence proves that climate change is real, man-made, and serious. So for every climate expert that is interviewed should reporters interview one person who denies climate change? Absolutely not! In 2017, Nigel Lawson, a British Conservative politician and journalist, was infamously interviewed for BBC. During the interview he claimed that the average world temperature had slightly declined in the past 10 years. He was clearly downplaying global warming, but the Today program originally neglected to challenge his statements because “offering space to ‘dissenting voices’ was an important aspect of impartiality”.
Long story short, the Global Warming Policy Forum proved that his claim was inaccurate, and the BBC apologized for allowing him to misinform the public without interference. Some matters as serious as climate change are simply undebatable because arguing against it may legitimately cause audiences to deny the severity of the issue. At the end of the day, affording all sides of a conversation balanced coverage is vital, but if one side of the conversation refuses to side with the facts, then journalists must counter their narrative and be sure to avoid false balance.