Balance as Bias — redux

Apropos the discussion of the latest IPCC climate change report, there was a discussion on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning about the media’s role in public (mis)understanding of the problem. I’m glad to see that the travesty of having Nigel Lawson on the programme recently to ‘balance’ a leading climate scientist was discussed. It was an example of the old “balance as bias” problem.

The guy who really nailed this in words of one syllable is Paul Krugman. When the topic of media bias came up in a session he did with Harvard students years ago, he said something like this (I’m paraphrasing):

Here’s the problem. Dick Cheney [then US Vice President] says that the earth is flat. Here’s how the New York Times reports it: “VP says Earth Flat; Others Disagree”.

This is where American journalism’s concern with not having a point of view becomes pathological. The earth isn’t flat. Never was. And there’s a high probability that human intervention is warming the planet.