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When covering a controversial or sensitive issue, it’s standard journalism practice to seek out opposing views to provide “balance” to a story. However, there are times when “balance” doesn’t further understanding of the issues or the story. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t create a false dichotomy. There may be more than two “sides” to a story and it may not be an all-or-nothing scenario. Some people might not have a strong position or might fall on a continuum of opinions. Don’t be afraid to seek multiple perspectives and report on nuances.
  • Bring in experts. Be sure that the people you interview are qualified to speak on the subject matter and cite their expertise in your reporting.
  • Be aware of your sources’ bias and framing. Someone’s position might be based on hatred, fear or irrelevant personal preference or conviction. Quoting them may give the impression that basic facts are up for debate. If you include them, consider how you are framing — or allowing them to frame — the information exchange.
  • Consider any potential harm your story could have. By including individuals who speak only from opinion, you can authenticate their narrative or semblance of expertise.
  • Remember to look for sources beyond the group with the loudest PR firm. Take time to develop contacts with experts who have deep and current knowledge of the issues at hand.

See false balance.

Updated December 2021