Saturday, May 15, 2004

Accuracy, science and the 'digital divide'

Paula (aka Stonerwitch) writes in with three very good points:
-- Accuracy in reporting events and in analysis should, in every single case without exception for the forseeable future, trump "balance" as the highest journalistic value and measure of journalistic integrity.

Accuracy is by its very nature already "fair" and "balanced." The fact of any matter does not need to be "balanced" by the inclusion of opinions based on inaccuracy. It is my personal belief that the press have become so paranoid of being labeled "biased" by conservatives that the actual facts of most issues have been watered down to the point of being meaningless. For example, it is simply a fact that the president gave Americans false reasons for making war on Iraq, whether by accident or by design. The story here is not whether this is a fact, as it has been largely covered. The story here is whether he lied on purpose or whether he is simply a puppet of his neocon masters. The only purpose "balance" serves in this case is to maintain the president's unaccountability to voters.

At this moment in time, "balance" is a code word for the inclusion of conservative propaganda in what should be a watchdog press. It serves no purpose except to maintain confusion, ignorance, and fear among the citizenry. Opinions belong on the op-ed page, NOT mixed in with the reporting of actual facts. It has gotten so bad almost all issues appear to be he-said/he-said situations, which detracts from the importance of real issues and contributes to the polarization of American politics.

Furthermore, it ties journalists' and editors' hands insofaras as time and column inches must be allocated for "balance," when that time and space would be better spent on reporting actual facts and exploring issues in depth.

Until the word "balance" can again be used in its original meaning and intent, it should be abandoned in favor of accuracy.

-- The blogosphere should actively recruit trained scientists of all stripes, especially those trained in the hard sciences, to report and analyze the science-based policy stories that arise.

A vast number of current events are grounded in the sciences, about which the American public is left to make decisions based on whether they "believe" or "disbelieve" the science, as if science were a matter of faith. Stem-cell research, all environmental issues, all health issues, the Mars plan, peak oil, computer technologies, emerging technologies such as nanotech and bioengineering, the fight against science in the classroom, and countless other stories are all grounded in science that the general populace does not understand. Moreover, the ongoing terrorist threat to Americans also involves a great deal of chemistry, physics, engineering and biology about which most people are ignorant. Without genuine scientific information, Americans cannot make informed political choices and are subject to government, corporate, and special-interest propaganda regarding these and other critical science-related issues.

-- The blogosphere may be a great democractizer, but steps need to be taken to insure that the work done in the blogosphere makes it into the hands of those on the far side of the digital divide. IMO, the best way to do this is to reinvigorate the American traditions of the alternative press and pamphleteering. This involves costs; however, printing technology is now immeasurably simpler and more affordable than it was in the past. If those who came before us could pull it off, we certainly should be able to in this age of print-on-demand, laser printers, word processors and the like.

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