slacktivist: Reporting the controversy
Fred Clark nails it.
So here, then, is our chance -- a chance to start doing again what it was newspapers were supposed to be doing all along: Telling the truth.
Outside of the sports pages, we don't really do that much anymore. We don't check things out and find out what are, in fact, the facts of the matter. We don't evaluate claims to see if they correspond with any discernible reality. We just repeat the claims. We "report the controversy," but timidly refuse to suggest whether the facts support one set of claims or the other. We have pitched our tent in the excluded middle and abdicated any responsibility to check things out.
"One faction claims A," we report -- if you can even call that reporting, "While another faction claims Not-A." It's even worse than that, actually. Whenever anyone, anywhere makes any claim "A," we don't go looking to see whether or not A is actually true, we instead go off in search of some representative to assert the competing claim of Not-A. If we have to invent such a representative, or to elevate some barking mad lunatic to play that role, then we will do so in the name of "balance." Balance between A and Not-A. That's another name for madness, but we'd rather be crazy than be accused of bias.
This cowardly irresponsibility is what is killing newspapers.