The appeal to journalistic balance (as well as perhaps the [tobacco] industry’s large advertising budget) evidently resonated with writers and editors, perhaps because of the influence of the Fairness Doctrine. Under this doctrine, established in 1949 (in conjunction with the rise of television), broadcast journalists were required to dedicate airtime to controversial issuesof public concern in a balanced manner. (The logic was that broadcast licenses were a scarce resource, and therefore a public trust.) While the doctrine did not formally apply to print journalism, many writers and editors seem to have applies it to tobacco questions, because throughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s, newspapers and magazines presented the smoking issue as a great debate rather than as a scientific problem in which evidence was rapidly accumulating, a clear picture was coming into focus, and the trajectory of knowledge was clearly against tobacco’s safety. Balance was interpreted, it seems, as giving equal weight to both sides, rather than giving accurate weight to both sides.(19)
From Oreskes, Naomi and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt. New York: Bloomsbury, 2010. Print.