Article / Writing

What real “balance” in the media would look like

When the mainstream media world talks about the importance of balance, or “both sides of the story”, what they are really doing is justifying also talking to the rape victim’s attacker, to the cop who murdered the Black man, to the violent right wing in Venezuela, to the coup plotters, and to the company that is poisoning the river. Even if a community of 10,000 people are suffering at the hands of that poisoned river, and they have been campaigning around it for years and have all the data, we have to make sure we also get an equal number of quotes from that one company CEO who lives in another country, and make sure the story is “balanced”.

In short, balance is an excuse to give the perpetrators of crimes, and the smaller (but more powerful) sector of the population a platform.

But if the mainstream media was really serious about “balance”:

  • Only 4.5% of world news would be about the US (The US’s population of 325 million is 4.5% of the total 7.3 billion in the world)
  • 16% of world news would be about Africa (1.216 billion people live in the continent)
  • 49.6% of news articles would be written by women, and the same amount would feature female experts  (some studies have found that just 22% of experts in US media are women, and 25% of US correspondents are women)
  • 0.0086% of media would be about (mostly excessively rich) celebrities.
  • While most news is from a business perspective, at least 47% of it should be from a workers’ perspective (There are 3.4 billion workers globally, and its likely this figure doesn’t include homeworkers).

I’m not arguing that the above is how media coverage should look. Ultimately, there are some smaller groups who should be covered disproportionately to their population. I don’t mean rich celebrities, I mean indigenous groups whose land is being threatened, or people who have less rights and suffer abuse because of their sexual identities, for example. But what the above stats show, is that if the private media is actually serious about balance, their coverage composition needs to change.