||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay that states the Wikipedia editor's particular feelings about a topic, rather than the opinions of experts. (October 2015)|
False balance is a real or perceived media bias, where journalists present an issue as being more balanced between opposing viewpoints than the evidence actually supports. Journalists may present evidence and arguments out of proportion to the actual evidence for each side, or may censor information which would establish one side's claims as baseless.
For example, "objective coverage" of lynching in the 1890s by US journalists failed "to recognize a truth, that African-Americans were being terrorized across the nation." False balance is often found in political reports, company press releases, and general information from entities with special interest groups in promoting their respective agendas.
Other examples of false balance in reporting on science issues include the topics of man-made vs. natural climate change, the relation between Thiomersal and autism and evolution vs. intelligent design. For instance, although the scientific community attributes a component of climate change of the last 50–100 years, particularly global warming, to the effects of the industrial revolution, there are a small number of scientists who dispute this conclusion. Giving equal voice to scientists on both sides makes it seem like there is a serious disagreement within the scientific community, when in fact there is an overwhelming scientific consensus favoring anthropogenic global warming.
False balance can sometimes originate from similar motives as sensationalism, where producers and editors may feel that a story portrayed as a contentious debate will be more commercially successful than a more accurate account of the issue. However, unlike most other media biases, false balance may actually stem from an attempt to avoid bias; producers and editors may confuse treating competing views fairly—i.e., in proportion to their actual merits and significance—with treating them equally, giving them equal time to present their views even when those views may be known beforehand to be based on false information.
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