Interview by Jane Hall
The Media Research Center, the conservative media watchdog group, has been getting a lot of attention for its reports alleging liberal bias in the media. Theyíve been severely critical of Peter Jenningsís and ABC World News Tonight's reporting before the war in Iraq ó and their reports get a lot of pickup on the Internet, through e-mails and on cable talk shows.
Look, Iíve been dealing with this myself since the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, when reporters were accused of having a liberal bias.
The fact of the matter is, if I donít establish a bond with the NBC News audience that is based on my credibility and my integrity, then I go out of business. Weíve been doing this for a long time. NBC Nightly News still has the largest single audience of any media outlet, print and electronic, in the news business. The simple test is that if people thought I had a bias, they wouldnít watch me.
What is the impact, do you think, of a steady drumbeat of such criticism? Does it not have an impact on the network?
It is a little wearying, but youíve got to rise above it and take it case by case. Most of the cases are pretty flimsily made. Iím glad that Peter, Dan, and I have been doing this long enough that weíre confident in our own abilities to withstand that. I understand the Rush Limbaughs of the world. I have less trouble with that. Thatís who he is and what he does ó and heís very skillful at it. Rush has a strong point of view ó and thatís fine. What I get tired of is Brent Bozell [president of the Media Research Center] trying to make these fine legal points everywhere every day. A lot of it just doesnít hold up. So much of it is that bias ó like beauty ó is in the eye of the beholder.
So it hasnít impacted the way you cover stories?
No, it hasnít. We work very hard at trying to determine what the facts are on a weekly basis ó and thatís a full-time job. I donít have time to engage in some kind of a conspiracy.