A very good blogger I stumbled upon, olvlzl, has two great posts about the sorry state of American journalism. From the first post, an attack on the artifice of ‘balance‘:
The most important political use of this “balance” comes in the context of news reporting and the parasitic limpets attached to it, opinion “journalism”. In that context something called balance has replaced the reporting of facts*. It used to be that a reporter was required to get two independent sources to verify the truth of what their primary source had said. Now, instead, they just have to get a second opinion and that opinion doesn’t even have to present facts in refutation, it just needs to refute. The excuse is that the “reader will get to decide who is right”. Well, I’m very sorry to have to say that I’ve decided that is a lie, a cheat and a fraud entered into for reasons of laziness, cowardice, economy and ideology.
In the second post, there’s a great assault on opinion polls and their irrelevance to reality (italics mine):
Polls divert us from the facts, they prevent us from finding the truth. Nowhere is this clearer than polls of the general public on questions requiring scientific or historical information. When facts are required for an opinion to matter, entirely uninformed opinions are better called guesses or, more literally, prejudice. What someone who couldn’t give a two sentence definition of natural selection thinks about “Darwinian Evolution” might be interesting to a marketing campaign, as fact it is less than worthless. I wonder how many people who would give you a ready opinion on the alleged greatness of Columbus could tell you much beyond 1492 and the names of the boats. I wonder if a lot of them could tell you that much. If the media spent its time on facts instead of fancies, people might know.
Polls do have their uses, such as predicting what voters think. But facts and scientific theories shouldn’t be put up to a vote.