Over at GetReligion, Mollie Ziegler is giggling (a giggling Ziegler?) over how difficult liberals find it to include the voices of people who believe homosexuality is sinful and wrong into the news. Or at least giggling at the way that it can be explained. Billie Stanton wrote in the Tucson Citizen that the University of Arizona no longer taught the vital importance of balance and objectivity in reporting, which she applied:
When some talented Denver Post reporters covered an anti-gay referendum later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, their bias showed. Repeatedly I demanded rewrites to give the homophobes’ side equal credence.
Stanton made the point in a column in the Tucson Citizen about why she is glad to be on the editorial page. But it just cracked me up. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, certainly, but the question is at least worth asking: how fair of a shake can you give people when you believe their legislative opinion is based on an irrational fear of homosexuality? Of course, I was in college and living in Denver at the time of the vote and remember that things were weird. Our own governor — himself part of an interesting polyamorous family situation — marched in the streets condemning the people of his own state for how they voted.
Anyway, you would expect the irreverant Gawker site to poke fun at Stanton’s statement. But I didn’t think it would be hard to find more respected media analysts defending impartiality and balance. Instead, we have this comment from Steve Lovelady of the Columbia Journalism Review:
Let’s imagine an Alabama editor in the 1950’s writing, “Repeatedly I demanded rewrites to give the Klu Klux Klan’s side equal credence.” Or how about “Repeatedly I demanded rewrites to give Hitler’s side equal credence.”
Where the hell has Billie Stanton been for the past 15 years, during which the most discredited journalism credo in the book has become the premise that “balance” equals truth ?
It is truth that journalism is supposed to be about, not “balance.”
People got mad at her — but not because she shouldn’t have used the word homophobia to describe those with whom she disagreed about a political issue — but because she thought those opponents deserved to have their say! As for Lovelady, I disagree that balance is not compatible with truth. But I’m glad he states his view unequivocally. Too bad he invoked Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies so early in the debate. Seriously, when everybody is Hitler, Hitler doesn’t seem so bad. But Lovelady thinks journalism is not about balance and it shows. Stanton, whose work I’m unfamiliar with, thinks balance and a fair shake are important.
Polls of media professionals’ opinions show that they are out of the mainstream when it comes to issues surrounding homosexuality. Many readers who oppose extending marital rights to homosexuals probably wish someone in the newsroom truly understood why they believed that way. The truth of the matter is that in many papers they’d be lucky to get someone as tolerant of their view as Stanton, who thinks they’re sick in the head but reports on their views fairly anyway.