Peabodys Reflect Media Prejudices
by L. Brent Bozell III
Every year, the University of Georgia's journalism school
announces the winners of its Peabody Awards for "distinguished
achievement and meritorious public service" in television and radio. The
awards for 1997, thirty-four in all, were presented on May 11. Six were given
to shows on the commercial broadcast television networks, and half of those
speak volumes about the political proclivities of the Peabodys.
Three of the broadcast network awards went to programs, or
installments of programs, that had no ideological ax to grind. Until 1998,
NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street" had too much dramatic integrity
to indulge in sociological crusading. (Then came its unfortunate gay-chic
dabble of this past winter, when one straight male detective found himself
dating a man.) CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a few slanted reports last
year, but the four for which it won the Peabody were not among them. ABC's
"Nightline" was honored for its three-parter on the since-deceased
genocidal lunatic Pol Pot. (Network news was basically AWOL when the Khmer
Rouge carried out its mass slaughter in the mid- and late '70s, but that
failure doesn't diminish what "Nightline" accomplished in '97.)
That leaves three winners, each problematic because of its
political viewpoint - or, better said, because each received an award
because of its political viewpoint. In theory, journalists aren't supposed to
praise advocacy. In practice, however, objectivity is a flag of convenience
that the media fly regardless of their biases, and in this case, most are
discernible in the choice of awardees.
First, there's CBS's languid "Sunday Morning,"
which is sort of like National Public Radio with pictures, except that a few
years back, NPR cleaned up its act somewhat under threat of federal defunding
and isn't all that left-leaning anymore. Not so "Sunday Morning,"
whose reporter Martha Teichner regularly barrages viewers with remarkably
biased dispatches. One notable example was Teichner's interview with her
Wellesley classmate Hillary Clinton, a puff-piece embarrassment more
reminiscent of an alumni-magazine story than serious journalism.
A few months later, Teichner outdid herself with a whitewash
of '40s pro-Communist lawyer Bartley Crum that suggested the major threat to
freedom in post-World War II America was posed not by Joe Stalin, but by Joe
McCarthy. "Sunday Morning" host Charles Osgood shouldn't be
forgotten, either: his eulogy for radical gay poet Allen Ginsberg, which
compared Ginsberg's "righteous wrath" to that "of an Old
Testament prophet," put his ideological compass in its proper
Then there was the April '97 coming-out episode of
"Ellen," which also received a Peabody last week. In its citation,
the awards panel stated that it was not "endorsing the sexuality of Ms.
DeGeneres." Oh, hogwash. By honoring the show, and that particular
episode, it was honoring, and endorsing, several liberal positions, among them
that opposition to gay rights ultimately has less to do with deeply held
principle than it does with ignorance, ignorance that can be reduced or even
eliminated by message-oriented fare -- like "Ellen."
Homosexuality is one of the lifestyle issues (abortion is
the other) on which the establishment media find it virtually impossible to
acknowledge that there is an intelligent, credible "other side." It
is also a highly important issue to them - and, apparently, to the Peabody
board, which has lauded several gay-themed programs in this decade. Most
recently, in '96 "The Celluloid Closet," about the portrayal of
homosexual movie characters, was given an award; in '95, honors went to two
pro-gays in the military efforts, NBC's "Serving in Silence" and
PBS's "Coming Out Under Fire." I'm sure the Peabody folks would tell
us there's no endorsement there, either.
The primary reason for this one-sidedness is that
conservative stands on social issues are grounded in religion, and faith makes
the media uncomfortable -- bringing us to another '97 Peabody winner, ABC's
now-canceled "Nothing Sacred." This was a "religious"
series that a secular liberal could enjoy, and that an anti-Catholic could
relish with glee. It was a series that appalled Catholics, not just because of
its attacks on the Church but because its very existence was predicated on the
proposition that a network should sponsor a show attacking the Catholic
Church. It was a series that outraged millions while pleasing only the far
left. It was conceivably the most offensive series ABC has ever aired.
And for that it won a Peabody. In the citation, the Peabody
panel noted that the awards have "sought to recognize excellence...
especially when such programming has faced ideological attack."
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the public can't believe what it's watching
on "entertainment" television, and doesn't believe what it's getting
from the "news" media. And these media, in turn, can't understand
why the public is turning away from them, by the millions and millions.
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