Beware False Balance

As somebody who still believes in facts, I don’t believe in false balance. The has become a major issue in contemporary media because frequently people representing inaccurate, fringe positions argue that if their voices are not given equal weight, it illustrates bias. The reality is there are not two equal sides to every issue. There is no equivalence in the antivaccination debate. There are not two sides to racism or bigotry. Every major scientific body in the world accepts the reality of global warming, meaning denialism is not a mainstream view backed by a body of evidence. Major corporations, from BHP to Westpac, operate on the basis that climate change is real. When the facts are overwhelming, they should be presented as such. We should never be closed to hearing alternative views because they can force us to test the truth and, in some cases, come up with better policies or plans. But false balance is a way of distorting reality and journalists should resist it.

Leigh Sales, On Doubt, 2nd ed. (Carlton, VIC; Melbourne University Press, 2017), p. 43. ISBN: 978-0-522872-934.

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