Media Watchdog Sinks
Into 'Year's Worst'
As printed in the
December 31, 2001 edition
Editorial in the Columbus
the end of an especially newsy year, the Media Research
Center, a conservative watchdog group, has trotted out its 14th annual
"Best Notable Quotables,'' a sort of reverse journalism-awards program
for "the year's worst reporting."
The list makes for entertaining reading, although the term reporting is a
misnomer. Most of the examples are not of news reporting but of the chitchat
and navel-gazing that fills the space around the news within all media these
days -- print, broadcast, online, you name it.
Take, for example, this excerpt from ABC's Good Morning America on July 24,
in which ABC news personality and former Nixon administration employee Diane
Sawyer fawned over ABC news personality and former Clinton administration
employee George Stephanopoulos:
Sawyer: "Watching you and watching you cover the news over the past
year, you are so much about passion for politics, and it doesn't matter to
you, I mean -- I really mean this.''
Stephanopoulos: "Thank you.''
Sawyer: "You've been completely nonpartisan in covering the news.''
The Media Research Center, being a conservative watchdog group, chose its
examples to back up its contention that the media have a liberal bias. Whether
or not one shares that opinion, a common thread among the winning entries
becomes obvious: The line between news on one side and promotional hype and
celebrity worship on the other is not as distinct as it once was.
Here are some examples:
The Swiss Press Corps Award for Remaining Neutral in War Coverage went to
David Westin, president of ABC News, for this profession of a complete lack of
any trace of bias whatsoever, delivered during a panel discussion at Columbia
University and aired Oct. 27 on C-SPAN:
"The Pentagon as a legitimate target? I actually don't have an opinion
on that, and it's important I not have an opinion on that as I sit here in my
capacity right now. . . .As a journalist, I feel strongly that's something
that I should not be taking a position on.''
The Department of Injustice Award for Denigrating John Ashcroft goes to
Newsweek assistant managing editor Evan Thomas for this un-David Westinlike
revealing of his biases on Dec. 23, 2000, in comments on Washington's WUSA-TV:
"Well, you know, attorney general is actually an important job. Why
can't they buy off the right wing with unimportant jobs? I mean, this is a
sop, I assume, to buy off the wing nuts, but it's like giving, I mean . . .
the attorney general counts; it matters.''
The Carve Clinton Into Mount Rushmore Award was won by former UPI White
House correspondent Helen Thomas, for this worshipful introduction of the
former president at a meeting Oct. 9 of the Greater Washington Society of
"Throughout his eight years in office, President Clinton warned us
that the next great menace was international terrorism. . . . He's also
brought unprecedented prosperity to our nation, and because of that, President
(Bush) can use the surplus Mr. Clinton left behind to pay for many of the
nation's needs in this time of crisis. . . . He is the man from Hope, and that
is what he has given us: hope. We miss him. Thank you, Mr. President.''
The Good Morning Morons Award goes to CBS Early Show anchor Bryant Gumbel,
for starting this uninformed on-air nonargument on April 18:
Gumbel: "At the risk of starting an argument, are you a believer in
Early Show weatherman Mark McEwen: "Absolutely.''
Early Show co-anchor June Clayson: "Of course.''
Early Show news anchor Julie Chen: "Yeah.''
Gumbel: "So am I. . . .And you wonder what it's gonna take. I mean, is it
gonna take some kind of a real catastrophe? I mean, does an iceberg have to
come floating down the Hudson before somebody stands up and goes, 'Oh yeah'?''
The Damn those Conservatives Awards went to Bill Maher, host of ABC's
Politically Incorrect, for this exchange July 27 on CNN's Larry King Live:
Maher: "I do think, if it turns out that this beautiful young girl is
gone, I think, and he (Gary Condit) is responsible in some way, you have to
look to Ken Starr for a little bit of guilt.''
Larry King: "Why?''
Maher: Because, you know, Ken Starr made it so that you, in the old days, you
had an affair with somebody, and, you know, OK, you had an affair. The press
didn't report it. They didn't make a political criminal case of it. Now, it's
almost like you have to get rid of them.''
And there is the Media Hero Award, which went to ABC News anchor Carole
Simpson for this unrestrained "On My Mind'' commentary Jan. 7 for
"What an exhilarating moment it must have been for her -- the first
first lady in history to be elected to public office. There, for all the
naysayers to see, was the woman who had finally come into her own, free at
last to be smart, outspoken, independent and provocative -- all qualities she
had been forced as first lady to 'hide under a bushel.' Still, she was voted
one of America's most admired women. Just wait. You ain't seen nothin' yet.''
Unfortunately, when it comes to fawning over political celebrities,
Americans everywhere have seen plenty.