A seemingly common criticism of the media is that its coverage isn't balanced. This begs the question - what would truly balanced coverage look like?
Discussing the positive aspects of an issue 50% of the time and the negative aspects of an issue the other 50% isn't necessarily balanced, after all. Car crashes are a good example of this. When they're discussed in the news, 50% of the alloted talk time isn't dedicated to how the world has benefited from them.
So what would truly balanced coverage of (as an example) the Iraq war look like? If it isn't 50/50, what would it be? And, of course, how would we even recognize it when we saw it? Just because something "feels" balanced, doesn't necessarily mean that it is.
My colleague Carrie Figdor, who turned to philosophy after a successful career for many years as a journalist, has this to say in response: "It’s probably too simple to think of balance in terms of a ratio; it doesn’t require us, for example, to give voice at all, let alone equal time, to Holocaust deniers in a report on World War II genocide. To paraphrase Paul Krugman: given what we know, would that even have been ethical? (See his May 2002 response to critics, On Being Partisan, here ). Being balanced is just one aspect of a complex professional norm of being objective, which also includes, at least, using neutral language, presenting views fairly, being non-partisan and just presenting facts, without inserting commentary. (For example, what do you call the structure going up roughly between Israel and the West Bank? The Israelis like the friendly “fence”, the Palestinians like the sinister “wall”; many media have settled on “barrier”. It’s still an open question as to what...