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Monday, February 2, 2009

Balanced view

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For an objective reporter writing a well researched article in intellectual journal, need to present facts and information in balanced format is important. It is important for him to provide both sides of an argument and positions for both for and against an issue lest he appears biased or judgmental. An intelligent reader in public discourse is expected to evaluate arguments by themselves and not be influenced by editorial leaning. This is specially true when article for consumption is written for wider audience which may include people on both sides of debate. Therefore, there is this need to balance discussion. However, real balancing can only take place if both views actually carry equal weight. In issues where one side of position is weaker than other, balancing turns into ridiculous tit-for-tat action where point of view of one side is immediately countered with opposite point of view even when they are not comparable at all thereby giving more proportional representation to weaker view.

With India-Pakistan discussion flaring again in domestic and international media, there are plethora of articles which try to balance Islamic terrorism with Hindu terrorism even when ratio of intensity of one to another is thousand is to one. Similar caricatured forced balancing takes place in many other spheres within India and elsewhere where need to find plausible opposing argument to stronger point of view obviates the more important need to maintain contextual usefulness and relative meaningfulness. It would have been great for me to cite news articles for this post but even if you keep this point of mind when reading and writing you will see such things at many places, specially when source of article is an organization which, for political reason, cannot side with the truth.

Such forced balancing also takes place in many Hollywood movies where blacks/whites and man/woman characters are kept in about equal number, specially in police force or medical profession. Need for political correctness and not appearing racists has taken such narrow view that if cast doesn't include black characters then producer/director is considered racist. Even comedy sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S was not spared this criticism. This happens to lesser extent in Bollywood but police or army characters almost always include Hindu/Muslim balance, though often it is part of the plot.
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