MEDIA CRITICISM:

Open Letter to Tom Brokaw

by Alice Cherbonnier

Define your terms and name your sources, Tom, or do us all a favor and get off the air.
On "NBC Nightly News" on Sept. 24, you reported to millions of people:
"The Republican National Committee now has acknowledged sending mass mailings to two states that say liberals want to ban the Bible. Republican Party officials say the mailings in Arkansas and West Virginia are aimed at mobilizing Christian voters for President Bush. Some Christian commentators say liberal support for same-sex marriage could lead to laws that punish sermons denouncing homosexuality as sinful."
If this text were being graded by a professional journalist, it would flunk. Why? Because it repeats a lie without examining it to show how absurd it is: Where did this inflammatory "ban the Bible" idea come from? What is a "liberal," anyway? How could it be possible for the Bible to be "banned"? What does it mean to be a "Christian voter"? Or "Christian," for that matter? Are all "Christian voters" (if such a category of voter can be shown to exist) presumed to favor Bush? If so, how do you know this? Likewise, please inform us what "Christian commentator" means. Since you're using such persons as a news source, NAME THEM. "They say" is worse than useless as a news source. Surely, with all the resources at your disposal, you could have provided names. And why would you offer as "news" the following outrageous and unsubstantiated statement by these alleged "Christian commentators": "support for same-sex marriage could lead to laws that punish sermons denouncing homosexuality as sinful"? Why would you repeat such drivel, thereby giving credence to this absurd assertion? How would such sermons be "punished"? By whom?

In one short paragraph, you have succeeded in convincing me that you are no journalist, but instead, at best, a much-too-well-paid talking head. And who, exactly, are you talking for?

In future, kindly add a disclaimer to the screen whenever you "report" something, so that the public will be warned that you are not responsible for checking facts or reporting the truth, and that you are willing to repeat unsubstantiated accusations as if they are true.


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This story was published on September 28, 2004.