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Baltimore News Report on Mixed Martial Arts: Two Sides to Most Stories, Not This One

One of the big problems in American journalism is that reporters sometimes feel the need to be "balanced" by giving equal time to both sides of a controversial subject, even when both sides don't have an equal claim to the facts. This news report from the Baltimore TV station WJZ about mixed martial arts coming to Maryland is a good example:

(If you can't view the video, you can read the report here.) The reporter feels the need to "balance" the words spoken by an intelligent, informed proponent of the sport with the words of a doctor who clearly knows little about MMA and has an incentive to make MMA look bad because he's on the payroll of World Wrestling Entertainment, which competes with MMA organizations for fans' pay-per-view dollars.
Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports notes:

It quotes Dr. Tyler Cymet as calling MMA "a simulated bar fight." Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Cymet, who is identified in the report as the Mid-Atlantic doctor for World Wrestling Entertainment, goes on to say that pro wrestling injuries are accidental while MMA injuries are inevitable, as if that somehow matters.

But neither Cymet nor reporter Kai Jackson did even the most basic research on the sport's safety. If it had, it could have cited a study by physicians at Maryland's Johns Hopkins University that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that concludes " ... the overall risk of critical sports-related injury (in MMA) appears low."

Media coverage of MMA is a hobbyhorse of mine, mostly because media mistakes about MMA are inescapable. Just as we don't "balance" every single news story about football with quotes from a doctor saying football can cause injuries, I hope we'll see a day when we don't need such "balance" in every news story about MMA. But I fear that day is far off.

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