Home / ABC News Prez Attacks “Opinion”

ABC News Prez Attacks “Opinion”

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In a speech at Harvard University this week, ABC News President David Westin warned against commentary in the news media:

“The more time we express our opinions, the less time we have to talk about the facts.”

Westin still doesn’t get it.

He is is still stuck in the old-news mentality, the one that gave us three networks, three newsmen. The one where Walter Cronkite would sign off every evening with “And that’s the way it was.” These were the days newsmen were objective, unbiased, they say.

Wrong. There has always been bias. To believe reporters are not biased and have no opinion is to believe they are inhuman, almost God-like beings whose intentions are pure and good, and void of any selfish motivations. To me, that is a very arrogant way of seeing yourself if you are a reporter.

The truth is many reporters do have strong opinions and many times those leanings inevitably seep into their stories. Having or sharing an opinion is nothing to be ashamed of; you just have to be up front about it. Most reporters, however, are afraid to reveal who they really are, fearful that their media bosses may punish them for their misplaced honesty. Honesty, you see, is not always welcome in newsrooms.

At least when Westin’s your boss.

This post first appeared on Reporterette.com

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  • Having a newscaster’s or reporter’s opinion “seep” into a story is far different from pushing propaganda for a particular political point of view.

    (See Fox, Sinclair and others.)

  • A former, and probably future, reporter here. I disagree. Most journalists are looking to be convinced when a topic involves controversy. (At least half of reporting is just who, what, when, and where. There is not much room for pontificating or bias.) You come to the subject matter uninformed or with limited information. You are looking to broaden that. To learn how and why. I think it definitely a minority response to take a position before you know much, which is what bias requires.

    I believe any reasonably intelligent and fair-minded person can practice journalistic objectivity. It doesn’t require being a blank slate. It does require knowing fact from opinion, seeking out reliable sources and doing research.

    . . . .

    Back after looking at your blog. Your blogroll reads like Right Wing Wackos on Parade. The entries aren’t far behind. George Bush is a leftist? Could have fooled me. I believe that is the basis of what you are saying here. You have a Right Wing bias and are assuming other folks are equally biased. But, most people are not that strongly attached to their politics. They are willing to learn. And, they can separate their beliefs from the facts in a given situation. (Some of them even change their beliefs after enough exposure.) So, most newspapers print stories that are reasonably objective.

    You refer to yourself as honest in your entry. I have to take issue with that. An honest person would have come here and said ‘I’m another person on the Right who thinks the media is too liberal.’ She would not have masked her views in a claim that everyone is as biased as she is.

  • I think you can learn a lot from the top links on Yvettes’ blog:

    # Drudge Report
    # Instapundit
    # C-Log
    # Opinion Journal
    # Peggy Noonan
    # Dick Morris
    # Michelle Malkin
    # Neil Boortz
    # Andrew Sullivan

    Biased? Nah.

  • Yvette Stafford

    To Mac Diva and Hal:

    Brilliant! You both have detected bias in my blog! I salute you! That’s the point.

    Mac Diva: If you wanted me to say that I am a conservative who thinks the media is too liberal, fine. I am not trying to hide that (which is why I posted link to my blog). I am a conservative who thinks — knows — the media has a liberal slant. What I take issue with is the assumption that reporters go to work on a story ” … looking to be convinced when a topic involves controversy.” That may be fine in theory, but it does not reflect the reality of today’s TV news business. These days many stories are producer-driven. Producers will often assign a news crew not only a story — but the angle of a story as well. That’s just one example of newsroom bias. Another is how producers choose to stack their shows. Choosing one story over another — or before another — is another, subtle indication of bias.

    You say: “Most journalists are looking to be convinced when a topic involves controversy.”

    Nope. That’s the Journalism 101 answer. The reality is that most journalists are looking to convince …

    But of course, many in the media won’t admit this because they’ve been hiding behind a self-imposed illusion of “objectivity.” Not me.

  • No, Yvette, not Journalism 101, but Neocon 101.

    It’s the Matt Labash School of Journalism you’re selling.

  • many are also hiding behind a self-imposed “fair & balanced” illusion.

  • I am peeved because she tried to pass this off as a discussion of journalism and I took it seriously.

    I do think her blog worth giving a look, peeps. I believe it is a kind of average blog of the Right, female style. And, at times it is funny, though not necessarily intentionally. Yette’s affection for Zell Miller probably exceeds his wife’s. And, this advice for Republicans on being more forceful in dressing down Democratic candidates is priceless:

    For reasons I explained in a previous post, I think the GOP needs to more aggressive in its rebuttals against its attackers. Here’s the formula:

    — Consistent displays of reasoned strength imply confidence, security.
    — Confidence — not cockiness — is a reflection of strength.
    — Women like that.
    — Women vote.
    — Women vote for what they like.

    There’s another entry that says the ideal time for American voter was the 1800s because only people with property could vote. I kept waiting for a criticism of denial of the vote to women at least. (Am not naive enough to expect slavery to be questioned by most Southerners on the Right.) Didn’t happen.

    Anyway, to summarize, Yvette’s blog merits perusal.

  • Yvette Stafford

    To Mark who wrote:

    “many are also hiding behind a self-imposed “fair & balanced” illusion.”

    I agree.

    FNC does lean right and I find it hysterical when their people — especially O’Reilly — try to deny that. FNC does however do a better job of getting BOTH sides of the story, hence “Fair and Balanced.”

    To be clear, being “Fair and Balanced” is not why FNC is doing so well in the ratings. Their talent is allowed to be who they are — and that’s a breath of fresh air.

  • bhw

    Personal attack on what, a blogroll?

  • It is an accurate description of a blogroll. I have done Yvette the favor of giving her a brief, but good critique of her blog. Persons who would like to see what a personal attack looks like can view the mockery of Teresa Heinz Kerry’s appearance on that blog. Part of the problem some of our more vacuous participants have is they rarely grasp definitions of phrases they are overly fond of using.

    I want to revisit the issue of what journalists do, because that is what I thought the entry was about at first. I’ve taken and taught Journalism 101. What one tries to convey to beginning journalism students is:

    ~ The definition of news,

    ~ The fact/opinion distinction,

    ~ How to write the basic, inverted pyramid news story.

    ~ The five Ws and an H.

    ~ Basic research techniques, such as using the library.

    In addition, to get them out of the classroom, I take or send them to court, a public hearing and a cultural event. They are to observe as a reporter would. I used to try to do more, but that is about all most students will pick up. So, I try to keep it fairly simple.

    As I said before, Yvette’s strange belief that biased journalism is what she is complaining about is far off point. That is not because journalists or journalism are perfect. They aren’t. (The few people who have been around long enough will remember I was one of the first bloggers to take issue with Steno Sue Schmidt’s stories about Pfc. Lynch and Mohammed. Some aspects I questioned turned out to be where the stories fell apart.) Yvette wants journalism to mirror what she perceives as reality.

    But, what she perceives as reality, to the extent we know it, is very far to the Right. Her views are those of a lady (I know from her blog she will appreciate that term) from the 1800s who has awoken in 2004. (Well, when she isn’t discussing ‘reality’ television anyway.) The ideal electoral franchise would exclude everyone but property owning white men. No political dissent would be allowed. The role of women in politics (the Miz Scarlett variety anyway) would be cheering for men and voting for the ones who give them the vapors. If she has said similar things, or tried to write stories reflecting them, in a newsroom, I am sure she got strange looks. She may have been told to stick to the facts. An animal rights advocate who wanted to cover animals the same way people are covered because not to do so is ‘specieist’ would get strange looks too. In both cases, the looks would not be because of bias, but because the person is unwittingly expecting reality to conform to extremist views.

  • I’m probably giving MacDiva more attention than she deserves, but her use of stereotypes speaks for itself when she labels me as a “Mizz Scarlett” type from the “1800s who has awoken in 2004.”


    Oh, MacDiva if you only knew what I looked like and where I have been. Then again, if I spent all my time navel-gazing I probably would sound a lot like you. I feel like saying more — much more — but I’ll be a polite Southerner and bow out.

    Fiddle dee dee!

  • Well, Yvette, there is always tomorrow.

  • it’s unintentionally (i’m sure!) funny to see Golberg’s “Bias” used in reference to this topic as that book is just about as full ‘o holes as coulter’s Slander.