NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt warned that the news media providing “an open platform for misinformation,” pushing back against the notion that outlets should always be giving two sides of a story equal weight.
Accepting the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism from Washington State University, Holt talked about attacks on the news media, at one point telling the virtual audience, “I think it’s become clearer that fairness is over-rated.”
“Before you run with or tweet that headline, let me explain a bit,” he said. “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention.”
He said that “you won’t have to look far to find more current and relevant examples,” but there has been widespread attention to misinformation about the 2020 presidential election and Covid-19.
“Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda. In fact, it’s just the opposite,” Holt said. “Providing an open platform for misinformation, for anyone to come say whatever they want, especially when issues of public health and safety are at stake, can be quite dangerous. Our duty is to be fair to the truth. Holding those in power accountable is at the core of our function and responsibility. We need to hear our leader’s views, their policies and reasoning. It’s really important. But we have to stand ready to push back and call-out falsehoods.”
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