published on December 13, 2013
International Rights Violations and Media Coverage
The Case for Adversarial Impartiality
I argue that the best way for journalists to enable their audience to determine the truth about international rights questions and to grant the parties’ claims a fair hearing is by adhering to strict impartiality—i.e., by producing coverage that does not reflect the journalist’s personal views on the rights question. I then argue that that the best way for journalists to provide strictly impartial coverage is by utilizing a legal trial, and more specifically an adversarial trial as a model for impartial presentation. Unlike the traditional Just-the-Facts model, the adversarial model explicitly requires the journalist to challenge the narratives of the parties and to cover the relevant normative controversies. It solves the problem of partiality in content choice by asking the journalist to take up the perspective of a principled zealous advocate for both sides of the international rights question.