Okrent’s Law

false balance

Merchants of Doubt

Daniel Okrent (b. 1948) is an American writer and editor. He is best known for having served as the first public editor of the ‘New York Times’ newspaper, for inventing ‘Rotisserie League Baseball’ (fantasy baseball), and for writing several books, most recently ‘Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,’ which served as a source for the 2011 Ken Burns miniseries on the subject.

The job of the public editor is to supervise the implementation of proper journalism ethics at a newspaper, and to identify and examine critical errors or omissions, and to act as a liaison to the public. At the ‘New York Times,’ the position was created in response to the Jayson Blair scandal. In an interview he made about his new job, Daniel formulated what has become known as ‘Okrent’s law‘: ‘The pursuit of balance can create imbalance because sometimes something is true.’ He was referring to the phenomenon of the press providing legitimacy to fringe or minority viewpoints in an effort to appear even-handed.


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