Canada’s National NewsMedia Council affirms vital principles in dismissing complaint about New York Times climate change report.
By Kathy English for The Toronto Star
In dismissing a complaint against the Toronto Star’s publication of a New York Times report about repercussions of climate change on the Louisiana coast, Canada’s National NewsMedia Councilhas affirmed two important principles.
First, the council indicated that fair and accurate reporting on some subjects — most importantly, climate change — need not engage in what is known in journalism as “false balance” – that is, a perceived need for journalists to seek out “the other side” of a controversial issue when the overwhelming scientific consensus strongly supports one side.
False balance wrongly seeks to provide equal weight to two sides of an argument when in fact the evidence-based information indicates there is no real argument.
“In dismissing the complaint, Council notes that journalistic standards require the news media to present balance in reporting, but it also notes that presenting balance in cases such as climate change or vaccinations includes noting that the great majority of science and expertise rests on one side of the issue,” the Council stated – wisely, I believe — in its judgment this week.
“It is not reasonable for every news article to delve deeply into complex science in order to present both sides of an issue,” the council, an independent, voluntary, self-regulatory body of the news media industry in Canada, stated in dismissing the complaint by reader Pav Penna of Georgetown, Ont.