Why Balanced Reporting Still Matters

balanced reporting Boston

I attribute my love of writing to encouragement at an early age from my first and second grade teachers. It seemed natural that I would volunteer to write for the school newspaper as an extracurricular activity in middle school, high school, and college. There was a pecking order to the news organization at each level, with new reporters given minor assignments and, as you gained experience, more interesting ones. If you chose (or were chosen) to go the editor route, your reporting assignments were less frequent, you edited other articles, and you could have a chance at writing an editorial or op-ed.

As an editor, I learned about the power of the press and the importance of discussing a potentially controversial article or editorial with the editorial board prior to publishing it. High schools and colleges are relatively close-knit communities, and the odds are high that the people you write about you may have to engage with regularly. More than once, the editorial board suggested that I discuss the issue at hand with the administrator whose actions prompted the proposed editorial before publication. These weren’t easy discussions, but they provided more clarity to the editor(s) and editorial board, while providing a heads-up to the administrator that our paper was planning to report on the decision or incident.

Fast-forward to 2019. I’m no longer a reporter (unless you count my occasional blog posts). I do, however, receive multiple media publications per hour, per day. Discounting truly “fake news” (emails from both conservative and liberal outlets with a slanted perspective), I question when I read provocative headlines from publications I deem credible whether their editorial interest is to raise readership or if the action or subject profiled really did something that bad to deserve the scathing headline.

Has competition for readership limited impartiality? In our smaller communities, we live and work with people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse beliefs. One reason for the general harmony is that we have thoughtful conversations when needed. Failure to talk about disagreements doesn’t work well for close-knit communities. My earlier newspaper experiences reflected that outcome. Shouldn’t our larger publications work to bring us together?

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