Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fake balance?

My son gives me a hard time when I watch Keith Olbermann’s show. He’s just as nasty as Bill O’Reilly, but liberal, T claims. (Note to students – I double checked KO’s name and found he has a double N at the end.)

I would argue that KO has a better grasp of the facts and is more snarky than mean. But, I see T’s point. However, my tween does approve of Rachel Maddow, whom he sees as more civilized. (Doesn’t hurt that she’s a Red Sox fan.)

In a recent interview with Lesley Stahl, Maddow talked about what she calls “fake balance” in the news. I’ve heard this argument before. True balance can be hard to pull off sometimes. While I might not completely dismiss a fringe argument, I think it’s worth considering a more nuanced approach to he said/she said.

Here’s what Maddow said:

LESLEY: I want to ask you, sort of apropos of television and stuff — that you obviously don’t watch very much — but you’ve referred to something, actually, put it down, that you’ve called “fake balance” in news shows. And as a person on a news show, I fear to ask: What is that and are you saying that your show is real balance?

RACHEL: I’m not saying that my show is real balance. But I think that the idea of fake balance is worse than not trying to be balanced at all. And what I mean by fake balance is to take any given political or factual issue, a news issue, and to approach it as if there’s a yes and no, pro and con, left and right take on it. On the issue of global warming, for example, that is something that interest groups on one side, as a political issue, tried to make that there was a real debate about the facts. And there really wasn’t a debate about the facts there. And to have a debate about the facts was sort of, at its root, dishonest, because it’s scientific information and, you know, fighting about the interpretation of what we ought to do about it them and whether or not the science is important and all of those things, absolutely fine. Fighting about whether or not we agree with the facts is an argument that is designed to reframe, and for the benefit of one interest group.

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