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False balance is a media bias in which journalists present an issue as being more balanced between opposing viewpoints than the evidence supports. Journalists may present evidence and arguments out of proportion to the actual evidence for each side, or may omit information that would establish one side's claims as baseless.

Examples of false balance in reporting on science issues include the topics of man-made versus natural climate change, the alleged relation between thimerosal and autism[1] and evolution versus intelligent design.[2]

False balance can sometimes originate from similar motives as sensationalism, where producers and editors may feel that a story portrayed as a contentious debate will be more commercially successful than a more accurate account of the issue. However, unlike most other media biases, false balance may stem from an attempt to avoid bias; producers and editors may confuse treating competing views fairly—i.e., in proportion to their actual merits and significance—with treating them equally, giving them equal time to present their views even when those views may be known beforehand to be based on false information.[3]

Contents

ExamplesEdit

Climate changeEdit

False balance has been credited with spreading misinformation.[4] An example of false balance is the debate on global warming: although the scientific community almost unanimously attributes global warming to the effects of the industrial revolution,[5][6][7][8] there is a very small number, a few dozen scientists out of tens of thousands of scientists, who dispute the conclusion.[9][10][11] Giving equal voice to scientists on both sides makes it seem like there is a serious disagreement within the scientific community, when in fact there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that anthropogenic global warming exists.

MMR vaccine controversyEdit

Observers have criticized the involvement of mass media in the controversy, what is known as 'science by press conference',[12] alleging that the media provided Andrew Wakefield's study with more credibility than it deserved. A March 2007 paper in BMC Public Health by Shona Hilton, Mark Petticrew, and Kate Hunt postulated that media reports on Wakefield's study had "created the misleading impression that the evidence for the link with autism was as substantial as the evidence against".[13] Earlier papers in Communication in Medicine and British Medical Journal concluded that media reports provided a misleading picture of the level of support for Wakefield's hypothesis.[14][15][16]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Gross L (2009). "A broken trust: lessons from the vaccine—autism wars". PLoS Biol. 7 (5): 756–9. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000114. PMC 2682483 . PMID 19478850. 
  2. ^ Scott, Eugenie C. (2009). Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction (PDF) (Second ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313344275. Retrieved 1 November 2017. 
  3. ^ Krugman, Paul (January 30, 2006). "A False Balance". New York Times. 
  4. ^ Boykoff, Maxwell T; Boykoff, Jules M. "Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press". Global Environmental Change. 14 (2): 125–136. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2003.10.001. 
  5. ^ Edenhofer, Ottmar; Pichs-Madruga, Ramón; Sokona, Youba; et al., eds. (2014). Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change: Working Group III contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415416. ISBN 9781107058217. OCLC 892580682. 
  6. ^ America's Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change; National Research Council (2010). Advancing the Science of Climate Change. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-14588-0. 
  7. ^ Unger, Nadine; Bond, Tami C.; Wang, James S.; Koch, Dorothy M.; Menon, Surabi; Shindell, Drew T.; Bauer, Susanne (2010-02-23). "Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107 (8): 3382–7. Bibcode:2010PNAS..107.3382U. doi:10.1073/pnas.0906548107. PMC 2816198 . PMID 20133724. 
  8. ^ Committee on Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years, National Research Council (2006). Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-10225-1. 
  9. ^ Anderegg, William R. L.; Prall, James W.; Harold, Jacob; Schneider, Stephen H. (2010-07-06). "Expert credibility in climate change". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107 (27): 12107–9. Bibcode:2010PNAS..10712107A. doi:10.1073/pnas.1003187107. PMC 2901439 . PMID 20566872. 
  10. ^ Oreskes, Naomi (2004-12-03). "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change". Science. 306 (5702): 1686. doi:10.1126/science.1103618. PMID 15576594. 
  11. ^ Doran, Peter T.; Zimmerman, Maggie Kendall (2009-01-20). "Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change" (PDF). Eos. 90 (3): 22–23. Bibcode:2009EOSTr..90...22D. doi:10.1029/2009EO030002. 
  12. ^ Moore Andrew (2006). "Bad science in the headlines: Who takes responsibility when science is distorted in the mass media?". EMBO Reports. 7 (12): 1193–1196. doi:10.1038/sj.embor.7400862. PMC 1794697 . 
  13. ^ Hilton S, Petticrew M, Hunt K (2007). "Parents' champions vs. vested interests: Who do parents believe about MMR? A qualitative study". BMC Public Health. 7: 42. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-42. PMC 1851707 . PMID 17391507. 
  14. ^ Speers T, Justin L (September 2004). "Journalists and jabs: media coverage of the MMR vaccine". Communication and Medicine. 1 (2): 171–181. doi:10.1515/come.2004.1.2.171. PMID 16808699. 
  15. ^ Jackson T (2003). "MMR: more scrutiny, please". The BMJ. 326 (7401): 1272. doi:10.1136/bmj.326.7401.1272. 
  16. ^ Dobson Roger (May 2003). "Media misled the public over the MMR vaccine, study says". The BMJ. 326 (7399): 1107. doi:10.1136/bmj.326.7399.1107-a. PMC 1150987 . PMID 12763972.