Balance means more than two sides
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.
- A daily story would explain the ban and all the details associated with it, such as when and where the ban goes into effect.
- Readers would expect to hear from smokers and nonsmokers.
- The story also probably would mention that there will be effects from the ban — health benefits, financial ramifications and smokers’ rights issues.
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.
- One day, a story on health benefits in places that already have smoking bans.
- Another day, businesses that say they have been hurt by the smoking ban.
- Yet another day, businesses that have gained from it.
TIP: Provide balance not only daily, but also over time.
Other ways to provide balance, found on Pages 186-187:
- Balance of people.
- Balance of news.
- Balance of opinion.
In stories of all kinds — features, business, politics, community issues — the appropriate balance in each circumstance will bring understanding and clarity to your message.