In times of war, the media grow skeptical of the American government’s role in controlling the flow of information. But the American people are also concerned about the media’s control of the flow of information. Will they act as neutral observers, devoted to balance and accuracy? Or will they play an activist’s role in undermining our government’s effectiveness in waging war?
In a review of 234 stories on ABC’s World News Tonight from January 1 through March 7, the Media Research Center found that in the buildup toward American military action in Iraq, ABC News failed a promise that the division’s president David Westin recently made to serve the American people as independent and objective observers, offering straight facts and letting the people decide. While the
CBS Evening News and the NBC Nightly News have offered far more balanced reporting, ABC’s World News Tonight and anchorman Peter Jennings have tilted dramatically against the “arrogant power” of the United States in four ways:
• Championing France and the United Nations Over the US. ABC questioned the purity of the Bush administration’s ideological and economic motives for war, and constantly decried a lack of White House respect for the peacemaking efforts of countries like France and the United Nations. ABC did not apply the same skeptical standards on ideology, greed, or “hard line” demands when it came to the policy stands of either France or the UN.
• Channeling Iraqi Propaganda. While ABC treated Bush administration pronouncements with great skepticism, ABC has channeled propaganda from the Iraqi regime without investigating its accuracy or even treating it with equal skepticism.
• Sanitizing Radical Protesters. ABC has touted the size and broadly “mainstream” nature of anti-war protest movements, without skeptical coverage of their radical organizers, their radical speeches, or their potentially destructive impact on the popularity of the “peace” position.
• Playing with Polls. ABC selectively covered its own polling numbers, reporting results that show slippage for the White House case, and sometimes ignoring their own polls when they found growing support for the White House case.
While the American public grow more convinced every day of the need for war, they have not arrived at that opinion through objective reporting from ABC’s
World News Tonight that demonstrated faith in letting the American people decide for themselves. Instead, ABC’s evening news team, led by anchor Peter Jennings, has scorned the notion of balance, lobbying the American people by favoring and highlighting information suggesting that war is unjustified, unnecessary, undiplomatic, and unwise. One
hopes that their coverage of the conflict itself will be more balanced.
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by L. Brent Bozell III
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