The false balancing act of he-said/she-said journalism is a continuing plague on American journalism. Giving equal time to opposed points of view is not a journalistic good when the result is a fundamentally misleading representation of reality. In this case, presenting the vague comments of a “holistic” practitioner as equivalent, somehow, to the mountain of authoritative scientific evidence showing childhood vaccination to be safe and effective is not just journalistically incompetent—it is a danger to kids who won’t get vaccinated because their parents paid attention to the holistic hokum served up on KLAS, and to future generations that could be threatened by a resurgence of deadly diseases that are now, thanks to a broad-based program of immunization, extremely rare.
What now? Well, it would be nice if KLAS offered a prominent apology and a lengthy, fully researched special report on the value to society of childhood immunization. But misinformation, once out there, is—as fellow United States Project writer Brendan Nyhan has explained—extremely difficult to counteract with facts alone. KLAS would do well to review Nyhan’s tips for journalists for covering false or unsupported claims—including, tip one: get the story right the first time.
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