Senator John Kerry recently made some very controversial statements when speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” segment.
From MSNBC: “The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual. It doesn’t deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do. And the problem is everything is put into this tit-for-tat equal battle and America is losing any sense of what’s real, of who’s accountable, of who is not accountable, of who’s real, who isn’t, who’s serious, who isn’t?”
Senator Kerry is partially disputing the notion that journalism should be unbiased by providing equal coverage to all parties or people with differing views. First off, this notion is hardly true in today’s world of electrified politics. It’s crystal clear that certain TV stations, blogs and radio shows already cater to audiences with predetermined world views. Perhaps that’s just good business; targeting those customers who will drink your Kool-Aid.
However, as a whole, the entire ‘Media Establishment’ often converges on specific stories, providing various points of view around each topic. Depending on what channel you’re watching or website you’re reading, you can get a hold of nearly every side of the story possible. Senator Kerry’s statement says maybe this shouldn’t be the case; certain parties that are outright lying or outrageously twisting the facts should not get equal coverage to well-established sources.
Of course, there is quite a spectrum to what’s considered true and false, especially in a catalyzed political atmosphere. However, one could say that facts are facts (although many would argue with that statement as well).
For example: the earth revolves around the sun. Most modern-day humans would agree with this scientific statement because it has been proven through rigorous testing and observation over a number of centuries. According to Kerry, someone that came out and said that the earth revolved around Jupiter instead, without any evidence whatsoever, should not get equal coverage via the media.
This is a slippery slope, of course, because it gives the media more power in determining the facts. Shouldn’t the media simply report on the story and let viewers determine what’s factual? Or are viewers not informed enough to make these decisions on their own? It seems to be a bit simpler with science.
In the world of scientific research, facts really are facts.
If a scientific researcher were to make up a data set, plagiarize a paper, or misquote another researcher, he could be guilty of misconduct. If the faulty content was discovered pre-publication, it certainly wouldn’t be published. And if the content made it through to publication and then was discovered to be misrepresented after-the-fact, it would most likely be retracted. The guilty individual or publication could also face professional and legal repercussions on top of that.
What if media coverage was more like research publication? Should fact-checking be placed in the forefront; if a source or quote was found to be outright wrong, should a retraction be required (along with other potential repercussions)? A system in place to do this would certainly help sort out ‘what’s real’ and would also hold parties accountable for their words.
Citations Hagey, Keach. “John Kerry wants media to “not give equal time” to Tea Party. Politico.com. August 5th, 2011. http://www.politico.com/blogs/onmedia/0811/John_Kerry_wants_media_to_not_give_equal_time_to_Tea_Party.html