Wednesday 13 January 2010

when a sacred concept misleads

A new report published today on science journalism makes a point this blog keeps making about the BBC's misconceived idea of 'balance', so noticeable in Radio 4's Today and BBC2's Newsnight.

The report, titled Science and the Media: Securing the Future, points out that 'balance' is (in effect) unscientific:

A classic example of the disjuncture came with the issue of journalistic balance, a sacred concept in neutral, objective journalism but problematic for science. Tom Fielden, science editor of the Today programme (himself a former general news reporter), explained how interviews on Today are often grounded in the UK’s distinct form of adversarial politics where two sides are invited on to thrash out policy differences. However, applying this model of reporting to science stories like MMR and climate change has produced seriously misleading reporting.

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