The “Fair and Balanced” Obsession

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Pam Spaulding spots a great example of one of journalism’s most annoying tics: the need to put fake “balance” into stories. The other day the Houston Chronicle ran a profile of Sgt. Jack Oliver, the first officer in the Houston Police Department to undergo a sex change while on active duty. Interesting stuff. But the reporter then feels compelled to gin up controversy where none exists and quotes some pastor or other who gets all squirmy at the thought of transsexuals: “That would raise issues of competency in the line of duty in my mind.”

“Issues of competency?” Who cares what “David Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors Council” thinks about police competency? There might be “competency” issues involved in this story, but a pastor has neither the authority nor the expertise to discuss them. Unless, of course, the reporter’s purpose here is to give voice to bible-thumpers who think transsexuals are “icky” without appearing like she’s wantonly turning the microphone over to bigots just for the fun of it. Which, of course, is exactly what’s going on. But creating fake controversies just for the sake of seeming “balanced” doesn’t count as objective reporting in any sense I’m familiar with.

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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