Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Balance means more than two sides

By · Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

The seesaw, also called a teeter-totter, has entertained children through generations. Its design is so simple, based on balance. Without balance, the seesaw would not work. And without the extreme highs and lows made possible by that balance, the seesaw would not be a thrill.

“Think Like an Editor”
Strategy 30: Edit for Balance

Balance in journalism is a tricky topic because balance does not necessarily mean representing “two sides of an issue.” Sometimes, stories need more than two sides to be balanced because some issues are defined not by two sides alone. This is the point that Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel make so well in their book, “The Elements of Journalism.”

We offer some suggestions to keep in mind when aiming for balance. From our book, consider:

Balance of Issues

A way to understand this is to consider a story about a smoking ban that goes into effect in public places in your community.

If a daily story such as this were published, it would be considered balance.

A more subtle way to attain balance would be to select single-issue topics associated with the smoking ban and to publish them a day at a time.

TIP: Provide balance not only daily, but also over time.

Other ways to provide balance, found on Pages 186-187:

In stories of all kinds — features, business, politics, community issues — the appropriate balance in each circumstance will bring understanding and clarity to your message.

Emilie Davis

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