Comments on ApostropheCatastrophe: Well, as for balancing the facts, I was trying to say was that many crappy journals balance the wrong things, thus seeming balanced to the . . .

Well, there are two things, here. There’s the part about typography. I enjoyed The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. And then there’s journalistic integrity. Which I’d like to split up into two issues, one of which you have mentioned:

  1. Terrible writing style be concatenating a bunch of quotes without offering any interpretation or background. That’s just the lousiest and laziest kind of interview post-processing. But it’s cheap. So our Zeitgeist supports it.
  2. The misguided attempt to be impartial by listing every stakeholder’s opinion, no matter how lousy they are. That’s a very strange interpretation of neutrality and impartiality, but sometimes this is exactly the external form it assumes: Just give equal space to both sides of an issue, and ignore the fact that maybe there are more sides to the issue, or shades of gray between two extremes, or that one of the two sides is so seriously misguided that giving both sides equal space effectively supports an untennable position.

There a difference between having an opinion and reporting on somebody else having an opinion. I usually don’t see it as trying to avoid litigation, which is what you have claimed, because this only works if you clearly attribute it to somebody, and then issue #1 is more relevant: Bad style. No, I think the real reason is the kind of relativism explained by issue #2: Putting things in quotes takes away the ‘sting’. It adds irony and undermines authority, supports the sceptic in us. Nothing bad about it, actually. It’s a ‘rhetoric’ element. It can be ‘used’ to good effect. Or it can be ‘overdone’, if you see what I ‘mean’. So it’s either bad style (#1) or a misguided attempt at being impartial (#2).

AlexSchroeder 2006-09-21 09:03 UTC

I agree with point 1 – it’s very lazy journalism and bad style. As to point 2, the problem is that most of the time there’s little attempt at impartiality. The articles rarely take the second view, or try to balance the ‘facts’. It’s a sensationalist media, little more.

What they do is find the headline grabbing…..errrr….headline, then couch it in quote marks to distance themselves from it. I agree, it does take the sting away from the punch somewhat :)

GreyWulf 2006-09-21 14:58 UTC

Well, as for balancing the facts, I was trying to say was that many crappy journals balance the wrong things, thus seeming balanced to the uneducated, but obviously misrepresenting the state of the world to the educated. You know the examples I am trying to describe, I’m sure of it. A magazine, interviewing people moaning over their dead in Israel and in Lebanon. Both grieving parties get equal screen time. But nobody tells us that more than ten times as many Lebanese were killed, or that many of the Israelis killed in Israel were of Arab descent because their municipalities did not have the money to build the shelters. What I’m saying is that instead of a balanced perspective we’re getting balanced screen time which is not at all the same thing.

I’m not even considering the articles and shows where there is no attempt at balancing anything, of course. :)

AlexSchroeder 2006-09-21 20:45 UTC

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