What is fair and balanced news?
February 19, 2004
During the fall of 2002 and the spring of 2003 I was active, along with several other area citizens, in organizing demonstrations against Mr. Bush's planned attack on Iraq. Some of the events we organized attracted news coverage from the local media (others were ignored), but every time they gave us coverage they seemed to feel the need to go out and find a spokesperson for the opposing view, even if this meant consulting a local or state politician who had no special expertise on foreign affairs and really was just voicing a personal or party view.

One could understand this if it reflected policies held by the TV news departments or the local newspapers which require them at all times to give fair and balanced coverage to news events. But of course it is obvious that such a policy is not followed by our local media. When local pro-war folks got together to rally, no one called up the peace folk to get our views.

Just recently I've noticed several stories reported on channel 12 KODE-TV, and doubtless by the other local media, that could easily be seen as somewhat controversial and deserving of some special efforts to show both sides of the issue. One of these was a new bill proposed by State Senator Nodler to "reform" the state Workman's Compensation law. Not surprisingly, he wants to make it harder for workers to collect. The station didn't contact any local unions or a spokesperson for the Democratic Party or even a person who had relied on Workman's Comp to see how that person felt about the proposed reform.

When President Bush visited Springfield recently and bragged about new jobs being created, none of the media reports I saw took the time to get other points of view about how great his record is or isn't on job creation. They also failed to report on the presence of 45 anti-Bush protestors who greeted the president - from a "safe" distance. Again, they didn't seek remarks from any local Democrats, at least none of the reports I saw or heard.

The same can be said about a report on Roy Blunt visiting with area seniors to tell them all about the exciting new benefits they can expect with the Bush prescription drug plan. Does anyone perhaps have doubts or questions about that plan? Not that our reporters know of.

I encountered this same kind of bias a number of years ago when I helped a friend organize a vegetarian dinner for an event called the Great American Meat-Out. It wasn't a particularly political event, more just a friendly pot-luck dinner with a vegetarian theme. Still the local tv reporter who showed up felt it was necessary to go consult a local doctor who just happens to raise beef on a large scale and ask what he thought about a vegetarian diet. Guess what he said?

So I can only assume that the policies of our local news media about fair and balanced coverage read something like this: If you do any story that involves something that might rock the boat, question the status quo, or upset someone in the local corporate/political elite, then by all means be sure to get a spokesperson from The Establishment to contradict whatever those leftists weirdos are saying. If, on the other hand, any Republican politician or local corporate bigwig turns up on the scene to say or do anything, then assume that everyone is thrilled about it and agrees with everything they say.

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SPINrbaker294902004-03-18 12:32:36