Today, creating uncertainty in order to hijack the concept of balance is a significant industry. Public-relations firms create artificial “grass roots” organisations for business and political-interest groups in order to have their views reflected in the media. They are known as “astroturf” groups, a concept that might not even exist if not for the demand for so much balance. For a recent example, see this brilliant series in the Chicago Tribune describing how the chemical industry created a phony consumer watchdog group to successfully push for the greater use of flame retardants.

Fascinating.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.