The following is a portion of a comment I wrote during this discussion over at Roger Simon’s. Roger had posed the question “what is ‘fair and balanced’?” The context of the query was that he and others are engaged in setting up a new blogger consortium called Pajamas Media, and are signing up hundreds of blogs as part of it, and are making decisions about whether it’s possible to achieve “fair and balanced” representation there.
The phrase “fair and balanced” (at least, as I interpret it) is something of an oxymoron.
Why? Because “fair” means, to me, logical, well-reasoned, factual. And “balanced” means “giving equal play to advocates of all sides of an issue” (a sort of “one from column A, one from column B, one from column C approach). Unless you subscribe to the morally relativistic position that all truths are equal, then striving for “balance” will probably dictate that some “unfair” views will, of necessity, be given a platform.
So, I think “fair and balanced” isn’t really the goal–not in that way, at least. If you take all comers, you’ll certainly have some blogs that aren’t “fair.” And, if you don’t accept all comers, then you won’t have good “balance” (or, at least, it would surprise me mightily if you did, since I’m not a moral relativist).
All you can do is to strive for blogs that use reason, logic, and facts, rather than sophistry, as their main tools. And if this means that you end up with a somewhat skewed distribution in terms of political orientation (and I won’t say to what side I think that might be–let that remain my secret :-))–well then, so be it!
Whether or not you agree with me on which side could be the one that is overrepresented in the “fair” column (and reasonable people may differ on that) it’s still an interesting question: how to choose? Should you give a forum to anyone and everyone who wants in? Does a sort of “pure capitalism” approach work best–let the market (i.e. the reader) sort it out? Or, if you want to have standards, how to apply them? Do you try to accept only those blogs you think are well-written and/or well-reasoned? How do you avoid letting your own political leanings color your decisions about this? Or, should you even try?
As I believe I’ve said before, all journalists–and certainly all bloggers–have a political point of view, and it’s best to be up-front about it. Here’s a section of another comment of mine on the subject (from this fascinating discussion at Jay Rosen’s blog about the politics of the press):
Yes, the press is a political animal–or rather, animals. Each newspaper and periodical, and each journalist, has a political point of view which informs what it publishes, and what he/she writes. To pretend otherwise is to deny the obvious. The public can best be served by knowing the politics up front, and having the press drop the fiction of objectivity. So, to answer your question about what politics the press “should” have: transparent ones.
(How lazy can I get, eh? Reduced to cannibalizing my own comments on other blogs! Go easy on me–it’s a holiday weekend, and the first day of sun we’ve had in about two centuries.)