Many sides. Many sides.

Love this from Margaret Sullivan on Trump’s “False equivalency presidency.”

He’s the false-equivalency president.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the national news media’s misguided sense of fairness helped equate the serious flaws of Hillary Clinton with the disqualifying evils of Donald Trump.

“But her emails . . .” goes the ironic line that aptly summarizes too much of the media’s coverage of the candidates. In short: Clinton’s misuse of a private email server was inflated to keep up with Trump’s racism, sexism and unbalanced narcissism — all in the name of seeming evenhanded.

In a devastating post-election report, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center concluded that media treatment was rife with false equivalency: “On topics relating to the candidates’ fitness for office, Clinton and Trump’s coverage was virtually identical in terms of its negative tone.”

That was a factor — one of many — that helped to put Trump in the Oval Office.

Elected with the help of false equivalency, Trump is now creating some of his own…

With the issue of false equivalency front and center once again, a profound question arises for journalists: What does true fairness look like in covering this president?

We’re starting to see some answers…

On CNN, Jake Tapper’s commentary was blunt: “To anybody out there [thinking]: ‘I thought that the Klan and neo-Nazis and white supremacists, I thought there was no debate about this among civilized people?’ There isn’t a debate about it.”

And a Washington Post analysis by Philip Bump dispassionately observed that Trump had doubled down on what he originally said: “He’s sympathetic to the goals of the men who marched Saturday night carrying Confederate and Nazi flags — and even to the ‘peaceful’ torchlight protest on Friday in which marchers chanted anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans.”…

“The whole doctrine of objectivity in journalism has become part of the [media’s] problem,” Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, said this week in a talk at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. He believes that journalists must state their biases up front and not pretend to be magically free of the beliefs or assumptions that everyone has…

In dealing with the false-equivalency president they helped to get elected, the news media may have learned something.

The best way to be fair is not to be falsely evenhanded, giving equal weight to unequal sides. It’s to push for the truth, and tell it both accurately and powerfully.

Yep.  Of course, in this case, Trump made it so easy.  Not many people want to do “both sides!” when one side is Neo-Nazis.  It’s a greater challenge for the media to resist false equivalency in the less easy cases.

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