Whenever media cover any news, they hoped to provide information for public. But practically, it will be hard effort to make a qualified balance article. Somehow, journalists fall into problematic decision to choose one side view in writing. Here below I just want to make a list about several hard situations usually facing by journalist. These situations which in several ways push them to take one side story only and prevent them from make cover both side story.
- Balance in conflict. This is the hardest choice to make, especially if journalist wants to report war. In fact, often they should make choice with joint to one side only. The reason is the journalist safety itself. If you are embedded journalist, stay at one side and do not communicate with the other side. But if you aren’t, prove your neutrality with your reporting. Bring your former writing or taping and show the both side that your report was balance.
- Balance in nationality. A little group of chosen media invited by Information Centre of Indonesian National Armed Force/Indonesian Military (TNI) in 2003 to attend special training designed for embedded journalist. But they don’t want controlled by government side, polemic spreading in media. Is patriotic journalism like Maj.Gen. Syafrie Syamsuddin said exist? In my IMHO, the answer is yes. You can study how allied countries (USA and friends) media put their coverage news on any war that their country involved. They are not neutral at all, in many cases they took themselves as propagandist agent for their country. (see caption of the picture above)
- Balance in competition. If you are supporters of Manchester United, what would you write whenever your team cheated by the other? This illustration is to show how media can influence by journalists favorite also. There are many competitions in life: sports, presidential election, academic scholarship, etc. Even life itself is competition. If your media funded or have any interest on that competition, you should take one side only when you write. But if not, neutral is better. Try to use much data to support. Like head to head record of the two compete football team.
- Balance in event coverage. Sometimes you should go to the special event like product launching party. You have got many things from inviters: free party including meal and drink, goody bag, and -if you are lucky- door prize also. How could you stay neutral? Journalist writes good side of their inviters as many as they can. At least they try not to hurt them. Is it fair enough? I don’t think so. Minimum effort you should do is put yourself as user of their product. Look for comparative data and review their product carefully. Remember, if you can find it’s weakness before consumers do, the producer will thank you a lot.
- Balance in advertisement. There is no possibility to keep your balance on advertisement. Because advertiser pays such amount of money to gain the highest impact from their ad: their selling increase. But most of ads are not journalist business, except advertorial writing. If you do so, the one thing you should remember is journalist should give touch to adv. One of the prominent ways is seek competent sources to interview or relevant book to cite.
So, my conclusion is media have a right to choose also. They can be a partisan media or professional one. If you choose the first, your media policy to take side is depends on many things: nationality, benefit, safety, etc.The measure to choose are varies: nationality, religion, favorite, political consideration, etc. But if you want to be professional, just try hard to be neutral, even in war which your country involved. It’s hard and not easy in practice. But the challenge is what you make a real good journalist, isn’t it?
1) David Halberstam (1934-2007), famous Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author when he covered Vietnam War which gave him that prize. He was embedded journalist and take his country’s (USA) side when reporting.Photo source: The New York Times
2) The Sun, leading tabloid in England (UK) news headline during Falklands/Malvinas war (1982). You can see the using of words “our” show us their side on England. Photo source: wikipedia.com
This article is originally posted on June 12, 2007 at my old blog: http://www.communicationworld.wordpress.com