With all the talk of left-wingers posing as reporters and the biased news they create, it’s sometimes necessary to take a step back and recognize those who do their utmost to protect the integrity and sanctity of their industry. On Monday, February 2, I stepped into a National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) conference at the Hyatt Hotel near the Hill. Their keynote speaker was Bob Schieffer, of CBS fame.
In a sometimes overly divisive political world it was a breath of fresh air to hear what Schieffer said that day. His rhetoric was surprisingly non-partisan—the way reporting should be. He analyzed the 2008 presidential campaigns and President George W Bush’s legacy, among other things, with surprising objectivity.
I was especially pleased with his poignancy in assessing media bias. His take showed a certain self- and industry-awareness, at one point making the argument,
“I think 99% of people covering the news today try to play it down the line, and understand—because there are certain standards, and you do have certain training—when you do express your thinking it is clearly labeled as opinion.”
Schieffer is absolutely correct. I truly believe that the vast majority of those reporting the news in the hundreds—if not thousands—of written, spoken and televised media outlets do their best to present the news as fairly as possible. Accuracy in Media applauds those individuals. I hope that 99% enjoys long, lucrative careers.
But the one percent not included in Schieffer’s analysis—the so-called “reporters” who abuse the peoples’ trust and the privilege of disseminating truthful information to the public—are the individuals on whom organizations like Accuracy in Media zero in, and rightfully so.
Also interesting was Schieffer’s take on internet blogs and their role on the news media.
“Wherever newspapers go people are always going to need accurate information, and it can’t be blogs. You know, when you stop and think about it, the internet is the only deliverer, or vehicle to deliver news that has no editor. Even the worst newspaper has an editor. It has somebody on the newspaper that knows where the stuff came from. Stuff pops up on the web, you don’t know where it came from; you don’t know if it’s true; you don’t know if it’s false.”
Again, he hit it on the nose. But he didn’t mention one important reality: a growing number of reporters are using blogs as sources, especially during campaigns. This unfortunate reality is pouring gasoline on the media bias fire.
Schieffer went on talk about how the growing influence of blogs is taking a toll on newspaper revenues, from megapapers like the New York Times and The Washington Post, to local publications in small towns. He went on to say, “If they [small- and medium-sized newspapers] go down there’ll be nobody to go over and check and see what they’re doing in the city council, nobody to check to see what’s going on in commissioners court. And you’ll have corruption on a scale in this country that we have never seen before.” A worthy warning.
The icing on the cake came at the very end when Schieffer fielded a question about media objectivity.
“There’s a difference in being objective and being fair. No one is totally objective unless they’re on some kind of a life support system. But that is different than being fair, and using your training. And basically, being fair is nothing more than simply making sure the other side gets their side of it into your story, when you’re doing a story that has two sides.”
We can’t expect reporters to be objective. But we must expect them to be fair. Bob Schieffer has done a far better job than most to maintain an image of integrity and fairness—so much so that both Republicans and Democrats trusted him enough in two separate presidential campaigns to moderate their debates. I only wish more reporters used Bob Schieffer’s ideologies and methodologies as a model for proper, honest, unbiased journalism.
Click on the links below for some highlights from Bob Schieffer’s speech.