Unbiased reporting

Journalism isn’t what it used to be and probably never was. However, I note that at one time, journalistic integrity meant reporting what actually was going on, at least to the best of  your understanding. You’d listen to the various points of view then report on what fit the facts best.

The modern trend is simply to report all sides of the issue as if they were equally valid. Facts are viewed as subjective, tainted by the particular world view of the reporter.

This is of course nonsense. My world view is nothing like Newton’s but gravity still works the same way (more or less). Seat belts still save lives according to massive amounts of statistics and testing on survivability. There is an independent reality that, while we may not understand it, still affects all of us.

We may not understand everything about the universe, but it is far older than 6,000 years. Indeed, so too is the Earth and the human species. Our medical science may not be perfect but antibiotics do kill bacteria with varying degrees of effectiveness. While that fact may not be directly usable to promote health, it certainly saves lives.

If we don’t approach issues using facts and evidence, nothing can ever be resolved. We may not always make the best decisions but at least we can begin to understand why things didn’t work. No other approach can do this.

However, what I find interesting is that while reporters like to present all sides of the issue, the same doesn’t hold true for the publications they work for. Many newspapers, for example, have a business section but how many have a labour section?

Horoscopes and religious columns are common but science columns aren’t. Nor do we see disclaimers about these topics being only one side of the “debate”.

In short, what is currently called unbiased reporting is merely a front for pushing a particular agenda. Keep the public believing that science has no special status, that there is only the business side to economics, and they won’t question the lack of action of climate change or the manifest failure of neoliberalism to deliver real benefits to working people.

It’s been said that freedom of the press only applies to those who own one. With the Internet, everyone can publish their ideas, although finding readers is another matter. On the Internet however, even the shabby modern standards of journalism don’t apply. Facts and evidence aren’t necessary when the public has been conditioned to accept subjective reality.

Scott Adams’ Dilbert character once said “if reality is subjective, why does my life suck?” Indeed, if there is no independent reality, why is life so hard for most people?

You don’t have to be a Darwinian to appreciate that life is a struggle. Thomas Robert Malthus explained it centuries ago, long before Darwin, but people today only like to point out he got some details wrong.

I’d be trying to stop the tide by complaining about the lack of facts and evidence on the Internet. Still, we can try to do better.


About Gary Dale

Gary Dale is a long time social justice activist who has served in a number of roles. He is best known for founding and running FaxLeft in the 1990s, for running in Ontario and Canada elections, and for serving on the National Council of Fair Vote Canada. He has had a large number of letters to the editor published in a variety of media and on a wide range of topics.
This entry was posted in Economics, Education, Environment, Internet, Labour, Politics, Religion, Science and Mathematics. Bookmark the permalink.

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