From part two of a series evaluating the media's performance during the 2004 campaign. Grapefruits and Grapes
"As the election year accelerated and campaign rhetoric grew more heated, reporters found themselves in a bind. Clinging to a constrictive notion of objectivity, and looking apprehensively over their shoulders for angry charges of bias from partisan readers, they often resorted to a technique known in journalistic circles as 'false equivalence.'
Along with failing to fact-check competing claims, false equivalence belongs in the trash heap of discredited journalistic shortcuts, but in the final weeks of the election campaign reporters began relying on the practice as a protective shield. In its most common form, it amounts to a reporter holding up actions on both sides as equally blameworthy, when it's clear that no such equivalence exists. The classic parody of false equivalence:
To be sure, Candidate X is a mass murderer, but it's worth keeping in mind that Candidate Y is a serial jaywalker."