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Finding the balance

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, May 14th, 2011 - 26 comments
Categories: Media - Tags:

New Zealand’s Media seem obsessed with Balance or Balancing the Argument.

It’s fine to hear the other side of the story, as long as there is someone credible telling it.

But if the other side of the story is being told by parties/people like Act or The McGillicuddy Serious Party, Ken Ring or organizations like “New Zealand Climate Science Coalition”, “Sensible Sentencing Trust” or “The New Zealand Council of Infrastructure and Development”, then we need to be told by our media that basically these lot are a bunch of nut jobs or industry barrow pusher.

Don’t get me wrong I am a strong advocate of free speech; But it’s the media’s responsibility to take a good hard look at who these people are, and what these people are saying, then do their own research, before giving them any more credibility than they deserve or publishing any of their propaganda or comments.

Of-course some of these organisations I suspect are backed with money, lots of it, so there again the media need to find out who the backers are and inform us and if these organizations won’t make that information available, tell us that and only that. The purpose of many of these groups is to muddy the waters, to make it seem like there is genuine debate so that people, through the fallacy of moderation tend to believe the truth is somewhere between the two sides. Industry funded climate change denier organisations are the classic example.

Kiwis aren’t stupid, we normally can smell a rat, all we need are the details, we can work the rest out for themselves, but at the moment we aren’t getting that from our media and all the more reason why places like the Standard are so necessary, as our Media seems too busy finding the balance.

– MrSmith

[aww, MrSmith, you made us blush. But, yeah, balance is so often used as a cheap and false proxy for objectivity, which is itself a myth. As is ‘horse-race’ political coverage. Far better for people to admit they have values and biases, put forward their arguments and let them stand or fall on their merits.]

26 comments on “Finding the balance”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    The MSM these days are idiots.

    Their job is not to find “balance”, this is not The Force dammit and they are not Anakin Skywalker. Or are they.

    It is to listen to different parties involved in an issue, and then to challenge and analyse what each side is presenting.

    But that takes time, money, research and general hard work, so why don’t we just get sound bites from all and sundry and call that “balanced”.

  2. Dan 2

    Seems to me like you’re basically drawing the distinction between quantitative ‘reporting’ and qualitative ‘journalism’. The former assuming balance by presenting countervailing views the by presenting the same views weighted by bias and objective credibility.

    Unfortunately we seem to have a derth of journalists in NZ and an excess of reporters. I’d say our two major television news teams are prime examples, where ‘pretty young things’ able to read a teleprompter or front a camera have replaced the veterans who knew how to construct a story. How many journalists do we have in this country of a calibre comparable to a Sackur or Frisk able to weave a coherent story from start to conclusion? (Stephenson comes to mind, but we now know he’s not credible 😉

    As for Kiwis, I know the bulk of the population isn’t stupid, but I wonder how many actually want details. Most of the people I know are to apathetic to even pay attention to a 20sec sound-bite let alone a detailed analysis.

  3. Pascal's bookie 3

    There’s a great post (and discussion in comments) from NYU journalism prof Jay Rosen, here:

    http://archive.pressthink.org/2010/06/14/ideology_press.html

    on the ‘balanced reporting’ angle, why we have it, how it serves the media, and why it sucks.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    As far as science goes, if it’s not part of the scientific consensus then it shouldn’t be in the MSM. Publishing shit from organisations such as the “New Zealand Climate Science Coalition” merely confuses the issues destroying any sense of ‘balance’ and prevents us from making rational political decisions. Of course, that’s the whole point of such articles and why the corporations and their backers go to such extremes to get the misinformation published.

  5. Jimmie 5

    DTB – going by this principle – 300 years ago arguments in favour of ’round earthists’ as opposed to the orthodox flat eathers would never have received a hearing.

    Basiclly what you are saying is that the MSM shouldn’t report on anything that you personally don’t believe in – this is a crock.

    I believe there should be more serious investigative journalism – actually hunting down the truth behind events – not just accepting the say so of what ever spinner is spinning at the time.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Basiclly what you are saying is that the MSM shouldn’t report on anything that you personally don’t believe in – this is a crock.

      You made this up.

      Don’t you realise we can use our mouse wheels to scroll up and see for ourselves what was actually written? 🙂

      • Jimmie 5.1.1

        Ummm no DTB wrote that: As far as science goes, if it’s not part of the scientific consensus then it shouldn’t be in the MSM. Publishing shit from organisations such as the “New Zealand Climate Science Coalition” merely confuses the issues destroying any sense of ‘balance’ and prevents us from making rational political decisions

        Obviously DTB is a supporter of global warming and doesn’t like information published to the contrary.
        This shows that he would prefer MSM which only publish articles that support his personal beliefs.

        As I said above if this had been consistent policy over the last 300 years we would all still be flat earthers.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.1

          Jimmy haven’t you figured it out? In your pretty story, YOU are the flat earther.

        • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.2

          Hey, look at that. He read it twice and still missed the significant bit that would have allowed understanding:

          …if it’s not part of the scientific consensus then it shouldn’t be in the MSM.

          Nothing to stop scientists being scientists:- going round studying, researching and publishing their work in scientific, peer reviewed publications. Science would still advance and their research published but the misinformation that organisations like the “New Zealand Climate Science Coalition” put out wouldn’t be. This would prevent the confusion that they deliberately cause as we, the public, would be well informed and so allow us to make more rational political decisions.

          Obviously DTB is a supporter of global warming and doesn’t like information published to the contrary.

          I don’t like misinformation to be published.

  6. Jimmie 6

    No my point is still valid.
    I will explain it again in simple English.

    If the MSM only published articles that supported the theory of global warming how is that balance?

    That is like having a see saw with only one person on one end.

    Balance is when you have two people of roughly equal weights on each end of the see saw.

    In this case the MSM publishing articles supporting and opposing the theory of global warming is balance.

    If they refused to then they would become propagandists for one side of the issue which is unbalanced.

    Just as unbalanced as the catholic church was way back yonder in opposing any heretic who dared suggest that the earth was round.

    It doesn’t matter whether many people agree or disagree with the issue – example the MSM occasionally publish articles about UFO sighting even though I presume that a great majority of readers don’t believe in UFO’s

    Its called a diversity of opinion and its ok – just like The Standard allowing a RWNJ like myself to dare offer a contrary opinion on this blog.

    There nice and simple – easily digested and easy to understand!

    • Carol 6.1

      Balance is when you have two people of roughly equal weights on each end of the see saw.

      Except with climate change, the 2 sides are not of equal weight. This “balance” philosophy also assumes there are only two sides. And in doing this, and deciding WHERE the centre is, the media actually construct the centre point. Then many people assume the most objective position is this centre one, because of all the assumptions about balance between 2 equal weights.

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      In this case the MSM publishing articles supporting and opposing the theory of global warming is balance.

      Apparently according to you the MSM should keep printing stories supporting the Flat Earthers like you, because that would bring “balance”.

      What a crock.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.3

      If the MSM only published articles that supported the theory of global warming how is that balance?

      Because all the evidence points to Anthropogenic Climate Change.

      In this case the MSM publishing articles supporting and opposing the theory of global warming is balance.

      No it isn’t because there are no peer reviewed articles opposing Anthropogenic Climate Change. The articles that appear opposing Anthropogenic Climate Change are, as a matter of fact, pure lies and misdirection. The MSM, not having the scientists necessary to do the required peer review, don’t pick up on this and print them as if they were true which leads to the confusion in the public that the people producing such lies want.

      If they refused to then they would become propagandists for one side of the issue which is unbalanced.

      No they wouldn’t – they’d be doing their job which is to report the facts as understood by the scientists.

      Its called a diversity of opinion and its ok…

      But we’re not talking about opinion here but the actual facts. The climatologists all agree about Anthropogenic Climate Change because that’s what the facts point to. Everything the climate change denier “publish” has been shown to be wrong. They keep publishing it which makes them liars.

      When you opinion goes against the facts, which the climate change deniers do, then your opinion should be, and must be, ignored.

      There nice and simple – easily digested and easy to understand!

      And complete and total bullshit.

  7. Jimmie 7

    When you opinion goes against the facts, which the climate change deniers do, then your opinion should be, and must be, ignored.

    Hmmm spoken like a true believer – why are you so precious about global warming that no one is allowed to even think that it may or may not be real? Come on thats the same thinking that was espoused in Soviet Russia – dont you dare think something that is different to official thinking.

    To be honest I actually kind of support the belief in global warming as the reaction to it is half the reason why our farmers are doing well currently (artificially inflated commodity prices)

    But back to the point – if you don’t like someone’s opinion argue against it, point out why its wrong, heck laugh at if you want thats fine, but to want it suppressed now that is plainly wrong and surely goes against the concept of free speech.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      Hmmm spoken like a true believer – why are you so precious about global warming that no one is allowed to even think that it may or may not be real?

      If they can prove it, get it into a peer reviewed article – fine. Until then I’ll stick with what the facts that come from the scientists. As I said up thread – nothing I suggested stops the scientists from studying and publishing. All it does is stop the lies and misdirections from entering public discourse where it doesn’t belong due to it causing confusion among the populace forcing irrational political decisions.

      …but to want it suppressed now that is plainly wrong and surely goes against the concept of free speech.

      Don’t want anything suppressed, just don’t want the calculated lies of the corporates in the MSM which is what we have now. The scientists would still be able to discuss it, do the research that they want and, if they can prove their theories, get it published both in peer reviewed journals and in the MSM.

      • Dan 7.1.1

        “…stop the lies and misdirections from entering public discourse where it doesn’t belong due to it causing confusion among the populace forcing irrational political decisions.”

        This would tend to go against MrSmith’s point that:

        “Kiwis aren’t stupid, we normally can smell a rat, all we need are the details, we can work the rest out for themselves”

        Put it all out there, let people make their own decisions. Some will happily make a decision based on ignorance, others will go to the trouble of developing an informed opinion. As much as it may be intellectually retarded, people are entitled to form entirely reactionary, unbalanced, uninformed opinions and I’d rather they did that than have no opinion at all – because without an opinion they’d just be sheep following one charismatic leader after the other to their own slaughter.

        • MrSmith 7.1.1.1

          Yes people are entitled to the opinions Dan.
           
          But just like you’re not allowed to stand up in a theater and shout fire, you shouldn’t be allowed to spread doubt and uncertainty with your opinions. Its well know one of the human races major failings is, not taking action without certainty.

          So with this in mind, freedom of speech is our enemy.
           
          People need to back there opinions with facts, or they should be given as much credence as the man that has been standing on the street corner for the last month yelling, “end of the world tomorrow”.

          • Carol 7.1.1.1.1

            People need to back there opinions with fact,

            Actually, once it’s backed up with fact, isn’t it more than an opinion, it’s become an argument…? Although people also talk about qualified but educated opinions as being supported by evidence, eg scientific opinion, medical opinion etc.

            • MrSmith 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Point taken Carol, thanks.

              I pretty sure you know what I was trying to say though.

  8. Bill 8

    I think a point is being missed. (Okay, the comment developed into a bit of a rant with a definite Sunday flavour)

    Carol points to the analogy of the see-saw having a contrived fulcrum. But there are more than two sides to a story and the possible interpretations of events do not exist on a linear plain.

    Then there is the fact that all ‘acceptable’ interpretations of events…those reported by our various media…assume that the media playground (where the see-saws are) encapsulates all possible comprehensions of the world.

    Moving beyond the media, our interpretations are coloured by the accumulative effects of things such as 2000 years of Judea-Christian culture ;a couple of hundred years of colonialism; a couple of hundred years of capitalism; a few thousand years of patriarchy…and so on.

    Anyway, insofar as science can reasonably be said offer a more usable and objective interpretation of measurable phenomena, then climate collapse denialists ought to be subject to the same degree of scorn as would be meted out to spiritualists, shamans and such like were they to seek to offer authoritative statements on climate collapse predicated on their religious views.

    I’m not forgetting that ‘scientific advances’ (as impacted by the dynamics of economic systems) gave us climate collapse in the first place. ie that science is neither necessarily benign nor neutral in its effect.

    Meanwhile, spiritualists etc should be accorded degrees of credence in non-scientific areas of investigation or curiosity…but acceptance or rejection of their musings should be contained within personal limits of belief; not built into contending religious dogmas and definitely not reported as news.

    But then, that wee corner of the park insists that all interpretations of all events are incorporated into contending hierarchical systems of thought or belief and that only one should gain ascendency and be widely applied to ‘aid’ our understanding of the world.

    Maybe we’re nothing beyond jabbering apes who, instead of curiously and humbly exploring the world, are content to stand up on see-saws to point our fingers, bare our teeth and jubilantly throw books at the heads of others when our adopted views rise to the high point of the see-saws arc.

    But that’s okay. The world doesn’t care.

  9. Carol 9

    Carol points to the analogy of the see-saw having a contrived fulcrum. But there are more than two sides to a story and the possible interpretations of events do not exist on a linear plain.

    Yep, I agree the highly selective & ideologically-driven presentation of only 2 sides on a linear scale of views is a construction as well.

  10. Campbell Larsen 10

    This is slightly off thread but still on topic generally so I will comment here:

    A new tactic, enabled by the resurrection of an old friend.

    Those that read the newspapers will have noticed a change in tone in the MSM in respect to our prime mincer – jonkey. All of a sudden voices that have been filled with nothing but glowing praise start to question. What has happened here? could it be that that the media is actually showing some willingness to do something other than wax lyrical with compliments for our puppet PM? Does this mean that we can relax about framing and spin in the MSM?

    In short, NO.

    Fawning praise can only be believable for so long – eventually people get sick of such saccharine fare and especially so when it is unjustified and unwarranted.

    Introducing ACT II: Redefining the centre.

    First thing to do is drag out an old ugly and mean spirited Muppet to scare people with – Dr Deluded will do nicely. Give him a RW fringe party to play with. Get him to spout all kinds of offensive, racist social policy and equally offensive and discredited economic policy (the kind that you would like to be able to get away with but can’t just yet)

    Next step get your cronies in the MSM to start calling you not so nice names for not immediately implementing these radical and disastrous policies.

    Voilà! Now the illusion is complete – the MSM gets to pretend it actually can do something other than complement. The PM gets to pretend that he is only reluctantly embracing the Brash policies that he no doubt helped write, and the post that used to demark the centre has now been shifted far into the wasteland of the extreme right.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.1

      …and the post that used to demark the centre has now been shifted far into the wasteland of the extreme right.

      And the really scary thing is that it’s already half-way there.

    • MrSmith 10.2

      Cheers Cambell, U just gave me a line to start writing something, If you haven’t already take time to read Pascal’s bookies link earlier in the thread.

  11. deservingpoor 11

    Cenk from the Young Turks.Com once made the point that it is the media’s job to be objective and not just neutral.
    It is the fundamental job of a journalist to uncover when horse shit is being shoveled. Not to just present it as some sort of alternative view but to expose it as a baseless load of bollocks.

    The fact that our MSM media doesn’t do this is why we are still talking to Roger Kerr and Don Brash.

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