Fair and balanced; both sides

This week was pledge drive week at Minnesota Public Radio and therefore a week in which they highlighted their coverage of “both sides” of important issues.

Please. Stop. News organizations: please stop doing this. Here is why:

  1. There are not two sides to an issue. There may be two primary talking points delivered by our two major political parties, but most issues have a multiplicity of overlapping agreements and disagreements that blur based on your underlying philosophy.
  2. “Why?” matters. Take gay marriage. Two traditionally GOP-voting blocs are divided on it: the religious right is against it, those on the economic right see the bans as bad for business. There is crossover within those groups as well – in their beliefs, in their reasoning, in what they consider of primary importance.
  3. Let’s say there are only two prevailing points of view on an issue: sometimes one side is based on fact and the other is based on marketing. Are those stances equal? Of course they’re not, but it takes less time to “report” (aka summarize press releases) on “each side” of an issue than it does to sort out the underlying nuances, facts, obfuscations, belief systems, etc. at work that drive those who hold certain viewpoints.
  4. Finally, the facts of what is actually going on often has nothing to do with the people advocating for this or that cause. If you focus on the horse race alone, no one knows what the hell is going on. This leads to the utmost of pathetic ‘reporting’ – getting it first, nevermind that this had serious consequences in the 2000 elections and made CNN and FOX news look like idiots when they misreported the results of the ACA ruling because they couldn’t be bothered to read more than a page into the ruling before rushing to the cameras.

So, please, stop talking about reporting both sides. How about just reporting? Analyzing? Describing?

That would be awesome.


  1. Again, Sarah, I am so glad you said that! And I am tired of MPR kowtowing to the “two sides” while in search of more and more financial support from “both sides”, I assume, for if there were truly “two sides”, life here would be even more totalitarian than it already appears to be. I simply ain’t that simple, and we all simpletons are hanging out here to prove that to liberal-schiberal public radio.

  2. Thanks, Mary. I’ve been increasingly annoyed by this over time. I do like a lot of MPR, but I think they fall into that trap of the horse race and the two sides and it’s honestly bad for society for that to be our predominant mode of discourse. That, however, is another rant.

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