‘You Can Look Fair or You Can Be Fair’: Corporate Media’s Dilemma

Ryan Cooper of Political Animal (9/8/12) called attention to a column by Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein (8/30/12) that I think really sums up the corporate media’s problem with false balance. After arguing at length that “quite simply, the Romney campaign isn’t adhering to the minimum standards required for a real policy conversation,” Klein wraps up:

Ezra Klein (New America Foundation)

Ezra Klein

I don’t like that conclusion. It doesn’t look “fair” when you say that. We’ve been conditioned to want to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame, and the fact of the matter is, I would like to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame. I’d personally feel better if our coverage didn’t look so lopsided. But first the campaigns have to be relatively equal. So far in this campaign, you can look fair, or you can be fair, but you can’t be both.

And ask yourself: If you’re a profit-seeking outfit, which do you prefer, the appearance of fairness or the inner peace that comes with knowing you’ve done the right thing?

Note that Klein sees himself and is seen as a progressive–and yet he finds himself in that column dismayed that he can’t find enough factually true arguments in Paul Ryan’s speech. It’s hard to imagine Jennifer Rubin, the Post‘s conservative blogger, being worried that her commentary might appear “lopsided.”

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.