Dante Chinni, an associate at the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism, writes here in the Christian Science Monitor about a journalism truism we probably all know but may sometimes neglect: "balance," no matter what they say on Fox News, is a simpleminded concept that doesn't begin to describe everything we're trying to do.
I heard Molly Ivins make the same point once, describing what she called "the discredited idea that the truth always lies somewhere halfway in-between competing points of view."
Well, it might, but it sure as hell doesn't always. We need to bring more to the party than the stenographic and telephonic skills involved in calling the usual suspects and accurately recording their assertions. In addition to balance, we look for fairness, verification, documentation and the like. We want to add more to a reader's understanding than she would get just listening in on the argument.
Our web publishing platform gives us great new tools to help do this. Publishing links to original source documents, video clips and transcripts of events (or even interviews), backstory reports form reporters on how they got the story ... all these things can add depth and credibility. All make our journalism much more than simply "balanced."