Fair and Balanced - Or Just Unbalanced?

The other day, on a website designed to find expert sources for articles, I saw the following request:

"Working on assigned story for a
 major website that covers pet health and behavior issues....designed to briefly explain both positive reinforcement as well as the owner as alpha type method... to look
 at the pros and cons of each method and to help people thinking
 of hiring a dog trainer know which method is best (for example,
maybe treats and clicker training won’t work with a dog that 
needs serious rehabilitation).

I already have a trainer to
 interview for the positive reinforcement side of the story. I’m
 looking to...interview a trainer who adheres to the owner as alpha method...what techniques they use and why they work. Specifically 
that might include hand as mouth correction, prong or choke
 collars, alpha roll, other leash techniques, or flooding and
 gradual desensitization."

This is a prime example of the trend in contemporary (so-called) journalism that gives even inaccurate statements -- that climate change is a hoax, for example -- credence in the name of being “fair and balanced” instead of investigating their accuracy.

And it drives me nuts.

It’s the same thing that’s happening in schools around the country, where board members dictate that, for every mention of evolution, Intelligent Design needs to get equal time so that the curriculum will be “balanced.”

Information is either scientifically accurate or it’s not. I don’t have to convince anyone here that positive training theories are based on science, that L. David Mech, creator of the wolf theory on which the "owner as Alpha" training methods are based, rescinded his original views when he examined the data.  You can argue nuances of positive training theory, as is often done here. But you either subscribe to its basis in science or you advocate for another theory because of what you see as more accurate studies, new information, etc. The notion that you can pick and chose basic tenets of positive training to rebut -- “maybe treats and clicker training won’t work with a dog that needs serious rehabilitation” -- is absurd. It either works for all dogs or it doesn’t. It’s kind of like saying evolution is valid, except when it comes to man. Oh, wait... that’s what Intelligent Design does say.

As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Articles that purport to be fair and balanced because they give equal weight to both sides of an issue, even views that have been widely discredited, are worse than useless. Real journalists try to gather evidence dispassionately, see what conclusions it leads them to, and write the story -- presenting opposition views, perhaps, but still drawing a conclusion. Starting out with the notion that both sides have merits and setting out to prove it does truth-seekers a disservice.


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