3. Be fair to everyone.

The following is a work in progress.

Whether you are trying to explain something from a neutral point of view or arguing from a specific side, fairness counts. You can’t be perfectly fair, and people will see what you’ve said from their own perspectives, but making the effort is more than worth the difficulty.

First of all, it’s the honorable approach. You want to people to deal with you in a fair way, especially when someone is criticizing what you’ve said or done. Do the same for them.

Second, it pays back in audience trust. The people who read or hear your work will feel cheated if you slant the facts or present opposing opinions disingenuously. Your reporting will be suspect once they realize–and they eventually will–what you’ve done.

How to be fair? Beyond the Golden Rule notion of treating people as you’d want to be treated, you can ensure that you offer a place for people to reply to what you (and your commenters) have posted. You can insist on civility in your own work, and in the comment postings; my rule for hosting community is that we will be civil with each other even if we disagree on the issues. Use the Web, especially the elemental unit called the hyperlink. Point to a variety of material other than your own, to support what you’ve said and to offer varying perspectives.

Most of all, fairness requires that you’ve heard what people are saying. Journalism is evolving from a lecture to a conversation, and the first rule of good conversation is to listen.

Next: #4 Think independently, especially of your own biases.

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