Sago Boulevard

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Journalists Are My Eyes and Ears

Lindsay's post (featured in Philosophers' Carnival XX) on journalism and objectivity is quite sensible. In particular, she correctly points out what the consumer of news should want from journalists.
We want reporters to be our eyes and ears. If we can't witness an event first hand, we want someone to document it with as little distortion as possible so that we can consume the information and make up our own minds as if we had been able to see for ourselves.

Later in the post, though, she grants journalists a bit more interpretive licence than I feel comfortable with.
A science reporter who knows perfectly well that Intelligent Design is bunk but who still gives equal time to the ID crowd is not reporting objectively. Instead of writing to convey the truth as he understands it, he's writing to conform to an arbitrary standard of balance measured in column inches.

I don't want to get into the ID debate - I've already posted about that a couple times (here and here). But if ID is indeed bunk, shouldn't it be the consumer who makes that call? For one thing, if you grant the reporter licence to call ID bunk, then you ipso facto grant an ID supporter the right to do the same about Darwinism. Whether or not you believe that there's a real scientific debate about this (which there probably isn't), there is certainly a political debate and that alone is reason for a reporter to let me decide what to believe. As Lindsay said, I want journalists to be my eyes and ears, not my faculties of reason.

Of course, the ID debate is just one example and there are plenty of cases where forcing journalists to report on "both sides" would indeed be ridiculous. But in some cases, even when there isn't a scientific debate - global warming is another example - the political one is real enough.

Hopefully, I'll get around to commenting on some other Carnival posts later today.