Illusory Objectivity

Objectivity in journalism is an elusive goal. It seems that too often, reporters settle for passing on arguments from all (or most) sides and letting readers sort it out. But is that really the only solution? What about investigating those claims and reporting which ones are better backed by evidence?

This USA Today story provides a case in point. On the argument in Congress over the SNAP program, aka food stamps, Democrats argue the cost of the program has increased because of the flagging economy, while Republicans say it’s because of states giving benefits to recipients who should not be eligible.

USA Today apparently believed that accurately relaying these sentiments was enough for balance. The watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting explains why it isn’t. In fact, there is a significant lack of evidence to support the Republican argument.

Reporting this would bring predictable cries of “liberal bias,” but that’s no excuse for not doing so.

To be fair, FAIR did not investigate whether the evidence supports the Democratic argument. Down in the reader comments, someone called Jack Y suggests that it doesn’t. True objectivity really calls for an analysis of both claims, and so far we don’t have it.

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