Journalists must live by a code of ethics to ensure the stories they’ reporting remain objective, and provide truthful facts to their audience. Part of this code involves presenting both sides of the story. Certainly as the audience we expect to hear all perspectives on an issue as we rely on the media to provide us the information from which we will for our own opinions. In theory, this sounds perfectly fine.
However… the media giving equal weight to both sides of the debate can misconstrue the situation when the actual issue in an ‘unmediated’ sense doesn’t have such a large debate occurring.
This is particularly viewed in the media’s portrayal of the issue of climate change. It’s obvious that, in the media, this issue is presented through a political and economic lens. Which party’s policy is best? Who will be affected by a potential tax on carbon? This questions are everywhere when dealing with the issue of Climate change, just as in this Buisness Spectator article by Frank Jotzo published this morning, ‘Australia needs climate institutions, whoever is in power.’
But what the media is usually ignoring s that Climate change is a scientific issue with real environmental and human impacts,it’s not just about politics. What’s more, with journalists wanting to provide both sides of the debate on the issue, it gives the impression that in the scientific community the same debate is going on.
This is seen in the following CNN debate on climate change between Climate Realist Marc Morano and Bill Nye the Science Guy…
This debate isn’t actually the case, it is just how the media portrays it.
In fact, the scientific debate on climate change reveals that 90% of scientific professionals agree that climate change is a real issue whereas less than 10% disagree. But,in the media, both these sides are presented equally, and is therefore confusing the public in their opinions on this issue. This mediated practice is called ‘False Balance’ and the issue of climate change is not presented in light of scientific evidence. (Ward, 2009)
This practice of ‘False Balance,’ affects our opinions, so a new dilemma is created, when both sides of the story are presented to us, which one do we know to believe?
Thanks for reading,
Ward, B 2009, ‘Journalism Ethics and climate change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty,’ Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics Vol 9, pp 13-15