Truth Versus “Fair and Balanced” Part II

January 4, 2008 at 4:02 am

Don Lichter from the CMPA returned my e-mail:

Dear Mr Akadjian,

Thank you for your thoughtful note. For us the choice of outlets is a matter of resources and logistics – we simply can’t do more in real time. For several elections we did the 3 broadcast nets; we added Fox because it has has been so controversial. (Our studies find that CNN doesn’t differ substantially from the “big three” in ways we can measure.) Resources permitting, we will add additional outlets retrospectively.

As to the issue of fairness, we only noted that Fox was most balanced in strictly empirical terms, without identifying this with truth, fairness or accuracy, for the very good reasons you present. Our mission is to provide rapid-response scientific data on the news which will provide a more rigorous basis for the ongoing debates over these issues.

Robert Lichter

The CMPA agrees that their study does not identify balance with “truth, fairness or accuracy.”

The study is strictly empirical.

I don’t even disagree with the study. Rather, the issue is that it only makes a difference if what you’re trying to prove is empirical balance.

The issue is that we should NOT be even trying to argue which network is the most balanced. Empirical balance accepts a conservative framing: all networks should empirically try to carry equal amounts of conservative vs. liberal pundits.

Take one example: evolution vs. intelligent design. In a conservative frame, both sides should be represented equally. What gets lost? The overwhelming amount of scientific evidence supporting evolution and the complete lack of evidence supporting intelligent design.

What gets lost is the proof. This is NOT the goal of the media in a Democracy. The goal of the media in a Democracy is to help the public determine what is true and most accurate. We should be fighting for a media that seeks the truth in the name of the public good.