False balance

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False balance, a prevalent issue in journalism, arises when reporters depict a situation as equally divided between conflicting perspectives, despite the evidence suggesting otherwise. Originating from a desire to uphold objectivity, false balance can result in the misrepresentation of facts. It has been particularly problematic in coverage of topics such as climate change and the MMR vaccine controversy, where the dominant scientific consensus was inaccurately portrayed by assigning equal significance to a handful of opposing opinions. This can foster a misleading perception of discord[1], leading to public misconceptions about the credibility of certain stances. Critics of false balance emphasize its potential to distort public comprehension and awareness, especially in fields like public health and environmental science. Even though some contemporary media outlets are more proactive in challenging misinformation, it continues to be a contentious issue in the realm of journalistic ethics.

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False balance (Wikipedia)

False balance, known colloquially as bothsidesism, 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. False balance has been cited as a cause of misinformation.

Among climate scientists in 2013, 97% of peer-reviewed papers that took a position on the cause of global warming said that humans are responsible, 3% said they were not. Among Fox News guests in late 2013, this was presented as a more even balance between the two viewpoints, with 31% of invited guests believing it was happening and 69% not.

False balance is a bias which usually stems from an attempt to avoid bias and gives unsupported or dubious positions an illusion of respectability. It creates a public perception that some issues are scientifically contentious, though in reality they may not be, therefore creating doubt about the scientific state of research, and can be exploited by interest groups such as corporations like the fossil fuel industry or the tobacco industry, or ideologically motivated activists such as vaccination opponents or creationists.

Examples of false balance in reporting on science issues include the topics of human-caused climate change versus natural climate variability, the health effects of tobacco, the alleged relation between thiomersal and autism, alleged negative side effects of the HPV vaccine, and evolution versus intelligent design.

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