What If One Side Is Wrong?

In journalism, it’s being called “bothsidesism,” the training and by now custom to represent both sides of an issue to prevent accusations of bias against an outlet, a reporter, or a publisher.

While it sounds reasonable on its surface, it is a blatant invitation for a few problems that have been dogging society for decades now.

  1. It’s a way to preserve the status quo. Imagine if during the first discussions about pollution that ultimately led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency that the media had given equivalent space to arguments from business owners, employees who might be affected, polluters, and so forth. We’d probably still have streets littered with paper, rivers mucked with runoff, and air we could nibble. Instead, the press pushed past the status quo and its lame excuses and aligned with the change agents, and we had fairly rapid improvement in air, water, and soil. Representing each side as valid creates a stalemate, and stymies change. Those who want to preserve the status quo are the ones most likely to push for “fairness,” which is ultimately unfair because it distorts the world toward the status quo.

  2. It’s a blatant invitation to expand Overton’s window. Overton’s window is the conceptual space of allowable and reasonable dialogue. . . .

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