Consider what television anchor Lester Holt said recently when receiving the Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism
“I think it’s become clearer that fairness [in journalism] is overrated,” Holt said. “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention.
“Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda, in fact, it’s just the opposite.”
Funny he should say that about six months after my daughter and I had a tense phone call on the same topic. She had been reading about one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter and his theory that censorship wasn’t all that bad. She supported that kind of thinking.
At first, I thought maybe we had a bad phone connection. When I could no longer disguise my anger at her assault on the First Amendment, I mumbled something about having to go and hung up.
We have never broached the topic again and never will. In my family, we often tiptoe around tough subjects.
But now that Lester Holt has brought it up, I feel free to once again vent my disgust with that kind of thinking. Just which ones are “unsupported arguments,” who makes the decision to present only one point of view and which view is that?
As if we didn’t know by now.
During my 30-year-career as a journalist I never failed to give the other side the opportunity to have a say – even if it meant a refusal to comment or call me back. It was important to me to give everyone a voice. By my thinking, every opinion counts – even the ones I don’t’ agree with, like Lester Holt’s and my daughter’s.
All these years later, I still believe a journalist – a real one – doesn’t have to dwell on opposing arguments as long as he or she throws them out there for consideration.
Okay so the sun sets in the west. Yes, that’s a given. And I’m pretty sure you couldn’t find anyone to disagree with that truth. But if you could, now wouldn’t that be an interesting interview?
Some may make fun of Fox News’ “fair and balanced” slogan, which I agree can be suspect on occasion. But fair and balanced is exactly what journalists should be striving for in their coverage of news events.
We used to have an informal saying among reporters. If someone had a complaint about an article and the coverage their point of view received, we would say: “Next time it’s your turn.” And most of us meant it. When the opportunity arose – say at a press conference – there would be an evening of the score, giving one point of view more coverage than another. But still mentioning the other.
The other day I was watching a snippet of an upcoming CBS interview with Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, on CNN. Young Biden was hawking his new book (isn’t everyone these days) and talking about his addiction to drugs. The interviewer seemed sympathetic. Poor Hunter appeared to have tears in his eyes.
I was thinking about the Senate report I read on all of Hunter’s business activities abroad while his father was this country’s vice president, the suspect messages on his computer and the investigation into his taxes. No mention of those, of course, on CNN. This was a borrowed segment guaranteed to promote sympathy for the fallen child of the president.
CNN didn’t include any part of the segment that might have dealt with those other issues because CNN has given scant coverage, if any, to Hunter Biden’s reported misdeeds over the years. Their viewers might be shocked they were hearing about Hunter for the first time.
We stopped watching Lester Holt a couple of years ago for the very reasons that he thinks are okay. It didn’t feel like we were getting the whole story from him even though we liked his manner and delivery. Sorry, but we don’t happen to think that fairness is overrated.
Now we often drift over to BBC for our news coverage. Not that it’s any better, but the reporters’ accents are always a delight and make my man feel right at home.