False equivalencies in news stories
An article in Columbia Journalism Review focuses raises the issue of whether journalists should always strive to present multiple views of a story.
The author of the piece, Michael Specter, explains how his approach began to change in 1990 while he was covering the AIDS crisis. He said he was writing on deadline, but didn’t want to file the story until he had a comment from a well-known representative who considered AIDS a plague visited upon sinners.
Specter writes that his editor ordered him to file the story without waiting for the comment, and when Specter saw his story in print in the Washington Post the next day, he realized that including a comment from a notorious homophobe, as he put it, would have added nothing to help readers understand the story.
In the piece for Columbia Journalism Review, Specter writes that preposterous statements should not share equal space with facts. He also writes that he sees “…no benefit to running down the middle of every aisle. It’s dishonest.”
And Specter writes that climate change is one of those stories that should not be covered straight down the middle. He said journalists must stick to the facts, tell the truth, and strive to humanize the story to explain what is at stake.
Shop Talk is a weekly panel discussion about journalism issues. This week’s program featured Will Buss, who teaches in the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism at Western Illinois University and advises the student editors at the Western Courier, the students at student radio station The Dog, and the WIU chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists; Rajvee Subramanian, who teaches in the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism at Western Illinois University; and TSPR News Director Rich Egger.