Fixing the media's "false balance"

Just a quick post today, to draw your attention to an interesting decision made recently by the BBC: no more televised "debates" with "crank" scientists (climate deniers, anti-evolutionists, etc.), and no more inserting "false balance" into stories. And they actually have a plan; they're sending journalists to classes to help them un-learn outdated "impartiality" guidelines.

This idea of false balance is something I've thought about a lot, especially with regard to how non-journalists view it. There seems to be this pervasive idea that every story not only has two sides, but that those sides are equal.

Sometimes this is true, of course, but for some reason (24 hour news cycle? Need for clickbait? Personal entitlement/discomfort with one's opinion being questioned?) every issue is now expected to be presented as point and counterpoint.

What is a reader/listener/viewer expected to take away from that? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be "validation," which is not, I don't think, what we should be aiming for in journalism - especially not science journalism.

It will be interesting to see the response to the BBC's decision, and whether other organizations follow suit.