Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

01.18 Learning From Cuba’s ‘Medicare for All’

01.17 As Planet Heats Further, Even Davos Elite Warns Humanity Is 'Sleepwalking Into Catastrophe' [Intelligent government is desperately needed]

01.17 Could a Green New Deal Save Civilization? [Intelligent government is desperately needed]

01.17 New plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ planet’s future, say scientists

01.17 Studies Show Ice Melting and Ocean Warming Both Happening Much Faster Than Previously Thought

01.16 Immediate fossil fuel phaseout could arrest climate change – study [Intelligent government is desperately needed]

01.16 Our oceans broke heat records in 2018 and the consequences are catastrophic [charts]

01.15 Solar Farms Shine a Ray of Hope on Bees and Butterflies [Wonderful!]

01.15 Australia could hit 100% renewables sooner than most people think

01.15 Ion age: why the future will be battery powered

01.15 Barclays on wrong side of history with climate policy, says Greenpeace

01.15 'One fish at a time': Indonesia lands remarkable victory

01.15 Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

01.14 V.A. Seeks to Redirect Billions of Dollars Into Private Care [The most public and efficient healthcare in America has been demonized and will be destroyed rather than improved, raising total  per-capita costs]

01.14 Saudi Arabia Increases Solar Targets To 20 Gigawatts By 2023 & 40 Gigawatts By 2030

01.14 Solar + Storage Half The Cost Of Gas Peaker Plants — 8MinuteEnergy

01.14 Why thousands of Los Angeles teachers are going on strike [Well at least we got a big tax-cut for the super-rich, that was the most important thing.]

01.14 Air pollution 'as bad as smoking in increasing risk of miscarriage'

01.09 Dutch eco initiative halves energy bills in first UK homes

01.09 'It's a nightmare': Americans' health at risk as shutdown slashes EPA

01.08 Monarch butterfly numbers plummet 86 percent in California [0:58 video; Do You Care?]

01.08 Carbon emissions up as Trump agenda rolls back climate change work [Making America Less  Great Again]

News Media Matters

01.19 How conservative media became a “safe space”

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

01.19 The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?

01.19 Donald Trump Has Never Cared About Workers, and Never Will

01.19 Republicans’ lack of alarm over the shutdown reveals a disturbing truth [Sociopaths have little or no conscience, empathy or morality...]

01.19 Arizona: Four women convicted after leaving food and water in desert for migrants [morality is against the law]

01.19 Mueller breaks silence to dispute parts of bombshell report on Michael Cohen

01.18 “Are We Really Where We Are?”: Trump, Putin, and Washington’s Unbelievable New Normal

01.18 With Mattis Gone, Trump Is Already Sowing More Global Chaos [Trump plays General—what could go wrong...]

01.18 The Right’s Case Against Soaking the Rich Is Dirt Poor

01.18 Trump Worsens the Border Crisis

01.18 Impeach Donald Trump

01.18 President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project [An impeachable offense]

01.18 10 Things We All Lose If Bernie Chooses Not to Run in 2020 [Intelligent government is desperately needed]

01.17 These 2020 hopefuls are courting Wall Street. Don't be fooled by their progressive veneer

01.17 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lambasts US government shutdown in first House speech [3:27 video; Intelligent government is desperately needed]

Justice Matters

01.15 The US apparently kept no detailed notes of Trump-Putin meetings for the past 2 years

01.15 California’s largest utility just declared bankruptcy. Hello, climate change.

12.28 Mueller closes in: what will the Trump-Russia inquiry deliver in 2019?

High Crimes?
Economics, Crony Capitalism

01.17 Trump's economy is great for billionaires, not for working people [chock-full of pesky facts that government and media ignore and distort]

International & Futurism

01.19 The Ebola outbreak in Eastern Congo is moving toward a major city. That’s not good.

01.19 Ahead of Third Annual Women's March, Group Releases Far-Reaching 'Intersectional Feminist Policy Platform'

01.17 +++ Brexit crisis: Germany and Europe react — live updates +++

01.17 White people assume niceness is the answer to racial inequality. It's not [More equality requires us to fix ignored and distorted problems]

01.16 Global tensions holding back climate change fight, says WEF [Consistently stupid and harmful policies... Seeing a pattern?]

01.16 How Governments React to Climate Change: An Interview with the Political Theorists Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Print view: PBS Responds to FAIR Studies
MEDIA ADVISORY:

PBS Responds to FAIR Studies

Ombud echoes concerns, but producers question need to broaden sources

SOURCE: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
Published orginally on the F.A.I.R. website on Monday, 25 October 2010
Corporate sponsors—and fear of losing them—have PBS producers "in the bag."

The PBS ombud and representatives of the public television programs studied in FAIR's new report, "Taking the Public Out of Public TV," have responded (10/21/10) to the research that shows an elite, inside-the-Beltway slant to the programs' guestlists.

As he has in the past (10/6/06), PBS ombud Michael Getler largely agreed with FAIR's analysis. "If you keep calling the same known and comfortable suspects, you pretty much know what you will get," Getler wrote in his October 21 column.

After noting that some of the programs feature women and people of color as reporters and hosts, he wrote:

I do, however, think that the PBS programming focused on by FAIR does have a diversity issue--one that is also covered in the FAIR report and which I have also referred to in earlier columns. It is the rather narrow band of commentary and analysis that is presented on these programs. I have made the point in previous columns that public affairs programming seems to operate within a rather safe comfort zone that straddles the center. Certainly that has its place, but there are huge disparities of opinion in this country about everything from the war in Afghanistan to the public option in healthcare and the strongest voices are not heard very often.

That's where the loss of Bill Moyers Journal and Now With David Brancaccio come in, especially Moyers. Moyers had devoted fans and critics but whatever one thinks of him, he allowed the airing of important, intelligent and provocative views that rarely found a voice elsewhere on television.

So, here's my quick review of the programs and the issue. I think PBS can still do better on the diversity front and that everybody will be better off, especially the viewers, if this is done properly. As a viewer, I would not have ranked the race/ethnicity/gender part of that as an obvious problem, but the FAIR analysis is a good reminder and renewable challenge, especially about the need for more public interest guests.

I have said many times that I have a very high regard for the NewsHour and, even as a news junkie, I feel as though I learn something almost every evening watching it. On a personal level, I'd like to see a widening of the views expressed about the crucial issues confronting our country, and a more challenging brand of questioning. I don't believe Washington Week under Gwen Ifill is not mindful of diversity. I think she goes out of her way to work it in as best she can. On the other hand, for anyone who follows news closely, this program does have a predictable set of characters and a heavy dose of conventional wisdom if you follow this stuff during the week.

Getler's take shares many of the concerns FAIR raised in its report. Unsurprisingly, those responsible for the programs being studied largely challenged FAIR's report.

NewsHour executive producer Linda Winslow wrote: "As in its previous studies of the PBS NewsHour (1990 and 2006), FAIR seems to be accusing us of covering the people who make decisions that affect people's lives, many of whom work in government, the military, or corporate America. That's what we do: we're a news program, and that's who makes news."

That definition of newsworthiness--what powerful people say and do--guarantees the marginalization of important views that would contribute to national discussions about those "decisions that affect people's lives." A program that sought to convey a more expansive view of news and politics, whether on public broadcasting or anywhere else, would work to bring different perspectives to the air. That does not seem to be a priority at the NewsHour. As FAIR's study found:

  • Viewers were five times as likely to see guests representing corporations (10 percent v. 2 percent) than representatives of public interest groups who might counterweigh such moneyed interests--labor, consumer and environmental organizations.
  • On segments about the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the most frequent story of the study period, viewers were four times as likely to see representatives hailing from the oil industry (13 percent of guests) as representatives of environmental concerns (3 percent).
  • On segments focusing on the Afghan War, though polls show consistent majorities of Americans have opposed the war for more than a year, not a single NewsHour guest represented an antiwar group or expressed antiwar views. Similarly, no representative of a human rights or humanitarian organization appeared on the NewsHour during the study period.

Winslow continued:

We make it a point to question the decision makers, and when we do we also make it a point to include other views that provide balance and/or a different perspective either in the same program, or one produced soon after. We try to book the most qualified guests we can for every segment; when they are people who work for the government, the military or corporate America, their sex, age, ethnicity and political affiliation reflect decisions made by the people who hired (or voted for) THEM.

It is difficult to reconcile this description of the NewsHour's editorial approach with FAIR's new study, or with FAIR's previous research on the program.

Washington Week host and managing editor Gwen Ifill had a brief response to FAIR's report:

As you know, Washington Week's guestlist is drawn from a pool of Washington-based correspondents who cover high-profile beats. For that reason, our roundtables are less diverse than I would like. But we have dramatically expanded the number of women on our bench, commensurate with their numbers in the Washington press corps. I, for one, look forward to the day when the same can be said for D.C.-based reporters of color.

As FAIR noted, Ifill's program relies solely on Beltway journalists primarily from commercial media outlets. Ifill has made clear that she does not welcome journalists who would voice an "opinion" on the show--though one could argue that much of the Beltway analysis on the show amounts to an echoing of establishment opinions, which are not recognized as such only because they are universally shared by all present. While it is encouraging that Ifill agrees that the shows roundtables are not very diverse, it would be more helpful to rethink Washington Week's restrictions and invite reporters from other, non-corporate outlets who might offer a different perspective.

Charlie Rose executive producer Yvette Vega wrote that since the show "has been shown on public television for 19 years," researching the show's guest list for two months "may not be a current reflection." She countered by referring to a six-week stretch that she suggests was more diverse. Vega closed by writing: "We deeply appreciate the work and dedication of FAIR. It's organizations such as those that keep all of us reaching further and farther in presenting guests and programs that are both varied and diverse. I hope they will continue to do the good work they are doing. We will continue to expand and look for as many views as possible on a topic and subject."

Writing on behalf of Need to Know--the program produced by New York station WNET that is the successor to the Bill Moyers Journal and Now--WNET vice-president of content Stephen Segaller responded:

By providing only a cursory overview of Need to Know's extremely varied and balanced content, but a detailed assessment of the racial profile of our on-air guests, FAIR seems to equate racial and gender representation in the stories with balance or diversity in reporting. This nose-counting exercise is at its core an inaccurate representation of our commitment to balanced and enterprising journalism, but at the very least it should be complete.

The FAIR study sought to give readers and viewers a sense of the program's early broadcasts, to judge how the program could be considered an adequate replacement for the Moyers Journal and Now. Looking at the racial and gender diversity of the program--or any other program, for that matter--should not be dismissed as mere "nose-counting." It is a quantitative expression of who these programs consider worth quoting or interviewing, and it conveys one obvious and dramatic bias in their presentation.

This plays out in relation to specific content as well, as we demonstrated. For example, none of the program's economic segments in its first three months featured a single person of color, and men outnumbered women eight to five--this during an economic crisis in which black unemployment is dramatically higher than white unemployment, and which single black women entered with a median wealth of only $100.

But lack of racial and gender diversity was not FAIR's only criticism of Need to Know. As our report documented, the program featured more corporate sources than public interest advocates (20 appearances to 12). On the BP oil disaster, corporate sources (12) were more numerous than environmental experts (7). On discussions of the Afghan War, as FAIR noted: "The war segments featured 43 sources, nearly half of whom were associated with the military: 14 were current or former military and seven were family of military. Another nine were government sources, including those with military backgrounds like John McCain."

In short, studying racial and gender diversity alongside the occupational diversity of sources demonstrates that all of these public TV programs present guests drawn primarily from elite institutions, which tend to be more white and male than the public at large.

The key question is whether these programs, or public TV programmers in general, think they should be broadening their horizons. Some of the responses suggest that this responsibility is taken seriously. Other responses are more discouraging, as when NewsHour's executive producer wrote: "Again, as in past years, FAIR seem to have confused the PBS NewsHour with all of PBS, when they quote the 43-year-old Carnegie Commission Report about public broadcasting. The PBS NewsHour covers the news as fairly and impartially as we can. Period."

Arguing that there is some meaningful distinction between the goals of PBS and a show called "The PBS NewsHour" seems a waste of energy. More to the point, the reason FAIR cites the "43-year-old Carnegie Commission Report" is because this is the foundational document for public broadcasting in the United States. It lays out the rationale behind the creation of a public media, and the role that a public broadcasting system is supposed to play in the larger media landscape.

As FAIR--and many others--have consistently pointed out, the Carnegie vision for public broadcasting is one where those "who would otherwise go unheard" have a voice, and that such programming would enable viewers to "see America whole, in all its diversity." Whether the programs under examination like it or not, that is the standard by which public television should be judged. To hear a top official from the preeminent newscast on public television say that this is out of date or old-fashioned is distressing, to say the least.

Read all of the responses in Getler's online column:
http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/2010/10/fair_vs_pbs_again_1.html


Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting is a nonpartisan media watchdog organization. Visit http://fair.org for more information, or share your opinion about this story by writing to fair@fair.org. Republished in the Chronicle with permission from F.A.I.R.


Copyright © 2010 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.

This story was published on October 26, 2010.
 

Public Service Ads: