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PBS Ombudsman

The Ombudsman Column

One-Sided? Yes and No

Two of PBS's flagship weekly public affairs programs — NOW with David Brancaccio and Bill Moyers Journal — air back-to-back on Friday evenings and last week's offerings each drew a few complaints from viewers who felt they were "one-sided." Only a handful wrote to me to complain about the NOW program, which dealt with controversies surrounding the voting system and process. A slightly larger but still modest number wrote about the Moyers program, which dealt with attitudes toward Middle East policy.

I thought both programs were informative and provocative, and that both fit into that category of worthy discussion that you don't find elsewhere on television. But were they one-sided? That's a fairly frequent complaint that some consumers of news and public affairs programs on television, in print and online make. Sometimes how you feel about a story or program depends on whether you agree with its thrust. Sometimes one-sidedness is clear cut, perhaps because there seems to be an agenda attached, or perhaps because there is no natural balance to an issue or story. Often it is hard to judge.

There are samplings of letters from viewers to the ombudsman about these programs printed below, along with responses from the top executives of each program.

NOW First

Let's take the NOW program first. Whatever one's politics, millions of Americans have had reason to feel less confident about the integrity of voting procedures and systems in the past several years. Memories of the deadlocked 2000 presidential election and its bitterly controversial aftermath, and the reported problems in Ohio, a key battleground state in the 2004 presidential contest, are still fresh.

Within the last year or so, NOW with David Brancaccio has invested heavily in in-depth looks at the state of America's election system; four separate programs exploring everything from voting machines to local ballot initiatives to voter identification and the question of voter disenfranchisement. In summing up those earlier broadcasts, NOW says in its online material that it "found alarming evidence that our vote is in danger of manipulation and outright suppression."

With the 2008 election year approaching, NOW aired another in this string of programs last Friday, Nov. 30, asking, as Brancaccio put it in introducing the broadcast, "How safe is your right to vote?" The single guest for the entire half-hour (the program is actually about 24 minutes) was David Becker, a voting rights lawyer who served for seven years, beginning in 1998 with the Clinton administration and then into 2005 for the Bush administration, as a senior trial attorney in the Voting Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. So he has had a front-row seat on what goes on inside government.

Since leaving Justice, Becker has become director of the "People for the American Way" Democracy Campaign. This, according to the organization, is aimed at election reform that seeks to ensure that all eligible voters can vote and that their votes count. In addition to his government service, Becker is also introduced by Brancaccio at the beginning of the show as a "voting rights activist." But the on-screen labels for Becker well into the interview highlight only his Department of Justice (1998-2005) credentials, and it is only toward the end of the interview — six minutes from the end — that Brancaccio further identifies him and, to his credit, puts into words what some viewers might be thinking by this time. "Let's drill down a bit on this issue of partisanship," Brancaccio says. "You work for People for the American Way, a liberal organization. And there are some people who watch this and see your words and your work as really a strategy to get Democrats elected. The idea being, Republicans are always screaming voter fraud. Democrats are always screaming voter disenfranchisement. But really, it's just a tactic."

As usual, this was a hard-hitting program. As a viewer, I was glad to meet, and listen to, Becker. He is an impressive interviewee, illuminating about what he reports are only a very few documented cases of actual voter fraud that, in his view, removes the need for the kind of voter identification programs being proposed that, he says, restrict access to the polls of many otherwise eligible voters.

Here's a brief excerpt:

BECKER: Of course, only eligible voters should vote. But one of the things that we have discovered and countless studies have confirmed is that we actually have a fairly honest citizenry when it comes to voting . . . people take voting pretty seriously. The Bush Justice Department even initiated a special ballot integrity initiative to try to find out whether people were committing voter fraud, pretending to be someone else when they voted, voting when they were ineligible. And over the course of about four years, they discovered only two dozen instances of that kind of voter impersonation fraud.

BRANCACCIO: But are you kidding me? I mean, I turn on AM radio. And I'm constantly hearing — people venting about the perceived problem of all this fraud at the polls nationwide.

BECKER: And sadly, it's an invented problem, because if the extreme right-wingers who have tried to promote this kind of idea didn't have this potential threat, they couldn't come up with this unnecessary solution of things like voter I.D., which restrict access to the polls and, ultimately, do disenfranchise eligible voters who otherwise would be able to cast a ballot and have it counted.

This program produced only a few letters to the ombudsman but they were all critical. They came from viewers who felt this was a one-sided, biased program. These letters reminded me of the more extensive reaction to two of the previous programs in this series, including ones that I wrote about last year.

Back in September 2006, I wrote that, on balance, I thought these earlier programs were a plus for viewers. But I also said, referring to one program in particular, that "I came away also feeling that the piece had a distracting, advocacy tone to it rather than one that let the reporting alone lead to whatever conclusion the viewer came to." Last Friday's program was different in that it was an interview with a single guest rather than a reported, investigative story with lots of people and segments. Nevertheless, I came away with a similar feeling; that this program had a one-sided nature to it that would be obvious to many people.

In making this observation, I'm not signing on to the specific arguments of the letter writers below. Rather, I find myself once again dealing with a program that is indeed illuminating about an important issue, that presents a well-informed guest, and that is providing an in-depth discussion that likely would never be aired anywhere else but PBS. Yet the dialogue is laced with indictments of Republican and administration tactics and there is no rebuttal position offered at all.

This is frustrating because if what Becker says is true, and he makes a strong case, it is obviously very important as the country heads into another election. So when this program ends, I feel as though I have learned some things and can, personally, factor in that the interviewee is now working for a "liberal" organization with a point of view. But it still is annoying because the program, to me, comes across as one-sided and should have made at least some room, even if just a minute or two, for an opposing view or summation on some of these very controversial issues, such as vote suppression and voter identification, or been more challenging in questioning Becker. That would have, in my view, enhanced its value as a more credible look at a very important subject.

I've always believed that stories or programs that are presented as matters of public affairs — rather than editorials or opinion pieces — but have a clear tone of advocacy to them actually diminish their power to educate and to influence people whose minds are not already made up about something. They do this because the tone often distracts from the power of the information. I thought that was the case here, and that it wasn't necessary.

In his comprehensive response below, the executive producer of NOW, John Siceloff, presents links to the transcript, so those of you who have not seen the program can judge for yourself. Actually, I thought that some of the points offered below by Siceloff about NOW's fact-checking and documentation would have been a helpful 30 seconds as part of the program.

Here Are the Letters

I was not surprised at your unbalanced program on voter rights. Comments like "stealing another election" show the clear political bias of Mr. Becker and your moderator. They seem to have selective memory loss. Didn't the Democrats send lawyers to challenge military absentee ballots? Didn't the hanging chad occur in Democrat-controlled and run precincts where Democrats in charge chose that ballot method? And I seem to recall Democrats changed the recount laws after the election to enable extra recounts, a clear violation of Federal election laws, and the U.S. Supreme Count was forced to become involved. No mention of these minor details. But then Democrats are great at rewriting history.

Ronald Klenotic, Gladstone, MI

The NOW program aired November 30th, 2007 was the worst piece of political propaganda I have ever witnessed in my life. Watching NOW, I felt as if I were watching Soviet-era propaganda, or worse yet, Putin's increasingly agile propaganda machine. It was frightening, especially when I stopped and thought about my taxpayer dollars being used to further one party.

No alternative viewpoints were presented such as: ACORN [Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now] and the blatant voter fraud, the Democrat snowbirds voting in both New York and Florida, nor the non-citizens that openly vote in our elections. The only objections raised by the "reporter" and Justice Department lawyer were set up as straw men to easily knock down. The problem here, Mr. Getler, is that voter dilution is in itself disenfranchisement. Both the reporter and the lawyer interviewed completely ignored these issues, and by ignoring them legitimized disenfranchisement, as long as it is limited to Republicans.

Sarah Barth, Washington, DC

The idea that voter identification would prevent people from voting is crazy. It will only stop those that can't produce valid proof they are entitled to vote. They should not vote. There are 12 million illegals that want to vote. They need to be stopped and sent back to their country of origin.

Idaho Falls, ID

NOW Responds:

I write in response to letters you have received complaining about the NOW on PBS show that aired Friday, November 30th, "Will the 2008 vote be fair?" The transcript and streaming video of the entire show can be found at: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/348/index.html. We have a very active online community and have received several dozen emails about this show. The postings are both pro and con.

The letters you received cite a concern with voter fraud and take us to task for not "balancing" our show by devoting time to that issue. NOW segments largely take two forms: investigative stories and one-on-one interviews. For the interviews, NOW does something that is all too rare in broadcast journalism: Our team fact-checks our interviews, line by line. The facts checked out. Criticism seems to center on the view that our interview was unbalanced because it did not embrace the idea that our electoral system is subject to widespread voter fraud.

Our investigative staff looked carefully at voter fraud. We found that the Department of Justice task force which was formed to combat voter fraud was only able to identify a few dozen cases over the last eight years. We contacted the federal commission set up to study topics including voter fraud, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. The commission staff was unable to provide us with examples of voter fraud. They are conducting further research, but their most recent report (12/2006) found little evidence of fraud that had been identified. After that report appeared, the New York Times published an article on April 11, 2007 headlined "U.S. Panel is said to alter findings on voter fraud" which stated that the U.S. Elections Commission had altered the original draft of the report written by experts, from "There is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud" to say "There is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud."

In short, we found that voter fraud is not widespread, not prevalent, and not a significant threat to the electoral process. The interview discussed the issue of voter fraud as well as the effect of ID laws, vote suppression, voter caging, and electronic voting machines. Each of these issues has been shown in the past to have caused significant problems for elections. We've previously done investigative pieces on each of these topics, which can be viewed on our web site in their entirety. We at NOW follow the facts where they lead us, and this is where the investigative trail leads.

Like all interviewees, our interview subject on Friday has a point of view. Our job is to ask challenging questions and to make sure the audience knows who the interviewee is. Just in case anyone wasn't clear after the many times we identified David Becker verbally and through graphics the point was underlined with the following question:

David Brancaccio: "Let's drill down a bit on this issue of partisanship. You work for People for the American Way, a liberal organization. And there are some people who watch this and see your words and your work as really a strategy to get Democrats elected. The idea being, Republicans are always screaming voter fraud. Democrats are always screaming voter disenfranchisement. But really, it's just a tactic."

Becker is an interviewee with relevant experience and expertise, from years of working in the voter rights division of the Department of Justice. He had important things to say about the state of our democracy. His affiliation was clearly labeled. His facts checked out. We need more of this kind of programming, not less.

John Siceloff, Executive Producer, NOW on PBS

About the 'Journal'

The Bill Moyers Journal that also aired last Friday took a look at what Moyers called "different perceptions of the Middle East peace talks in Annapolis this week." It included some clips from the Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders in Annapolis and scenes from a program Moyers aired this fall about a group known as Christians United for Israel (CUFI), an Evangelical group that takes a very strong and uncompromising stand for Israel and against the threat posed by Iran. It then included new interviews with another Evangelical leader, Ron Sider, who favors President Bush's two-state solution for the Middle East and M. J. Rosenberg, director of policy analysis for the Israel Policy Forum that also promotes a two-state solution. Rosenberg was also a former editor at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Oddly, I got only one e-mail about the Moyers program until four or five days after it aired, when several people wrote claiming that this program was also one-sided, presenting only the perspective of the guests and with no representative from pro-Israeli organizations such as AIPAC that was subjected to some criticism on the program. Here's a link to the transcript, and a sampling of the letters is printed below.

Moyers did take an editorial shot at AIPAC. Addressing his guests, Moyers said at one point that "AIPAC and others make it impossible for Democrats to have the kind of conversation that you are having here. I mean, you don't hear this debate in the Democratic debates, do you?" But Rosenberg said that while the lobby does not want a debate on Israel and the two-state solution, he blamed the politicians not the lobby. I do think it would be good for Moyers to do a program with guests from AIPAC because it is such an important and powerful organization and player in U.S. attitudes and policy toward the Middle East.

But I also thought this program was valuable on its own terms. It was about a lot more than AIPAC, and Moyers has an hour. So, despite some editorializing by Moyers, the program's various parts, scenes, earlier interviews and invited guests, in my view, provided the dominant factors that you took away from this program, rather than a sense of one-sidedness that left you a little uneasy. I saw it as an informative and timely program coming off the just-concluded Annapolis meetings, and following up on both the earlier program on CUFI, as well as the call for a negotiated two-state solution that President Bush had just re-affirmed at Annapolis. For someone like me, who has followed Middle East developments for many years with, I believe, an open mind, it struck me as the kind of intense discussion that goes well beyond the conventional commentary and sound-bites on the Middle East, is important for people to hear and evaluate but is almost never heard on commercial television, or in presidential debates, for that matter, a point that Moyers made.

Here Are Some of the Letters

In the program Moyers and his two guests set out to show that Christians United for Israel and American Israel Public Affairs Committee, were obstacles to peace in the Middle East and to the peace process. That he did he not invite someone from CUFI or AIPAC to join the discussion in order to respond to his offensive suggestions belies any notion that Moyers can be objective on the subject.

That he sided against CUFI and AIPAC using language, such as radical, to describe, not Hamas which unyieldingly calls for the destruction of the Jewish State, but rather the two organizations and the Republican Party!, exposes his bias, to his shame.

B. Dean, Bala Cynwyd, PA

As a young litigator, I was taught that if you can control the process, it hardly matters what the substantive law is. So, too, in Bill Moyers' recent adventure into the subject of pro-Israel lobbying groups on US foreign policy. By limiting the real time discussion exclusively to persons who are opposed to these groups, the otherwise excellent Mr. Moyers managed to present an absurdly one-sided perspective in a gross violation of PBS' standards of editorial integrity. The selective use of facts by his guests, the "spin" they gave to even agreed-upon events and Mr Moyers' commentary left the viewer with the impression that US foreign policy is in the hands of wealthy right-wing Jews and their right-wing Christian allies. As though no ordinary even liberal citizen could possibly support Israel (even while acknowledging its errors) and US foreign policy is such a fragile reed that a couple of lobbyists could bend it sharply in their preferred directions. What about the Saudis and the Chinese who spend considerable sums on lobbying the American government?

No, Mr. Moyers violated the basic rules of editorial integrity by limiting his live discussion to only one point of view on what is clearly a contentious issue. In order to square your editorial integrity either Mr. Moyers must announce that he has a bias and that this show reflected his bias or he must apologize.

New York, NY

One practice of shabby journalism that seems to predominate on both PBS and NPR is the practice of having only one side present during the discussions of issues. The favored side gets to present its point of view, with the "personality" presenting the other side. What we viewers/listeners are deprived of is the knowledge and passion from advocates of both sides of an issue. A particularly egregious example of this negative proclivity occurred on the 30 November "Bill Moyers Journal" that was highly critical of organizations that support the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state, and the effects that they have of US foreign policy and the recent Annapolis conference. Not only were the organizations under discussion not present to participate, but Mr. Moyers as "moderator" made some very prejudicial statements against them.

Lexington, MA

The 'Journal' Responds:

In a week when leaders were meeting in Annapolis to discuss peace in the Middle East, we thought it was relevant and appropriate to take a look at the politically powerful group Christians United for Israel (CUFI), whose Pastor John Hagee wants to bring millions of Christians together to support Israel and has called for preemptive war with Iran. The goal of the report was to profile John Hagee and CUFI so that viewers could be exposed to their ideas and intentions. The result was a profile of the group's mission and activities. The broadcast included an interview we conducted with Hagee, who was given ample time to express his views.

The report was followed by a discussion with Ronald J. Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action, and from M.J. Rosenberg, Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum, who provided an alternative view and analysis of CUFI and the Christian Zionist movement from the perspective of an evangelical who does not agree with them and a secular Jewish voice, who disagrees with their position on Israel and the Palestinians. We did not "set out to show that Christians United for Israel and American Israel Public Affairs Committee, were obstacles to peace in the Middle East and to the peace process." We gave our viewers alternative perspectives on the theology and policy not present in the CUFI report.

It's telling that these viewers take issue with our program over the content of the discussion with Sider and Rosenberg, and ignore completely the first half of the broadcast. To write "the organizations under discussion [were] not present to participate" is misleading. To criticize the interviews as "absurdly one-sided" without mentioning the report, must lead me to assume that they simply didn't watch the whole broadcast, or they are not interested in the truth, but in denouncing anyone who disagrees with their ideology.

Rick Byrne, Director of Communications, Bill Moyers Journal

Baker on Moyers

There was one more interesting thing about the Friday broadcast of Bill Moyers Journal. If you've been watching PBS this week you know it is one of those "pledge" periods devoted to signing up new members and gathering pledges of financial support for PBS. These are standard program features a couple of times a year aimed at raising revenue from "viewers like you."

But what was interesting about this one was that there were two pledge interventions in which a PBS pledge host (not Moyers) interviewed William F. Baker, the CEO of New York City's WNET/Channel 13 and a leading figure in public broadcasting for 40 years. The subject was Moyers and his special place within PBS. Moyers has a big and dedicated following and also has an active collection of critics, and he has been the subject of several ombudsman columns in the past year or so. On some of those occasions, I've asked PBS to describe his role as they saw it. But I thought that Baker, during this pledge interview, actually provided the most expansive — and contextual from a PBS standpoint — view of Moyers that I'd heard publicly. This was obviously done for promotional purposes, and you may or may not agree with what Baker has to say. But I thought it was worth sharing with readers of this column who may not have seen it.

HOST: Bill, why do we need Bill Moyers and his kind of journalism?

BAKER: Well, first of all, many of us call Bill Moyers the conscious of America. And to hear his kind of journalism, a kind of journalism that presents another voice and as you know it takes many voices to make a real democracy. And he presents the voices you don't hear in the popular media, so Bill Moyers is critical to our democracy. It's that simple.

HOST: You know he was at CBS at one time. If PBS didn't exist, couldn't he do what he does once again in commercial television or in one of the many cable news programs?

BAKER: Well I think Bill Moyers was able to do what he did on CBS many years ago when CBS in a sense was a different entity, when media in America was a different entity, in fairness to CBS. I think now basically the cable networks do present very often a point of view, as a matter of fact that's been one of the criticisms, that they approach the news with a specific point of view. But this particular point of view is not one that can get economic support. And therefore, and the only economic support that has been possible for this point of view, has been directly from you the viewers. So if this is the kind of journalism you believe should exist on television, pretty much the only way it will stay on television is here on public television with direct support from you the viewer by going to the phone and making that telephone call yourself to support the kind of journalism Bill Moyers does.

HOST: Now Bill, Bill Moyers has done some very outstanding programs on media consolidation. You have written about it yourself. Talk to me about the relationship between media consolidation and the independence of, or lack of independence, in American journalism today.

BAKER: Well, you know naturally, you know, the media in this country in order to be more efficient have had to consolidate. A certain amount of that may be all right. But what is left is that there really are no local stations left in America. The only truly local broadcasters left in America are the public television and radio stations. So it makes your support even more important by going to the phone and making that call.

The conversation with Baker resumes later in the broadcast, with the host saying to Baker: Now, Bill, you've been very open on this point and I want you to talk about it, and that is the connection between the independence that Bill Moyers and all our public affairs and news journalists enjoy here at PBS and viewer support.

BAKER: Well, I mean, since generally we don't have corporate support for programs like this we don't have to worry about ratings. We just want to do what we think is right, present programs that we think are complete and comprehensive. The only way we're able to do that is with you the viewer supporting it. And if this kind of programming could exist someplace else, could exist commercially, you'd see it. With hundreds of channels that exist out there, do you see anything that looks like public television? Do you see journalism that looks anything like the journalism you see on the Bill Moyers Journal? And the answer is simply no. It's no because the commercial enterprise, the commercial world won't support this kind of journalism. So if you want to see it, the only support, the only way that you can do it is to support it yourself.

A New Mystery Program: The Case of the Blurred Condom

I was surprised and then curious why on tonight's (November 30, 2007) NewsHour program segment on attempts to control HIV spread in Tanzania, though the word "condom" was mentioned, the video image of a condom being shown to the natives there was pixilated out and not visible. Was this done because of U.S. governmental pressure on PBS not to show a condom on TV? I understand that the current U.S. government view of HIV control is abstinence but not use of devices to interfere with pregnancy. Am I wrong?

Maurice Bernstein, Los Angeles, CA

I was watching the segment on AIDS tonight and when one of the locals held up a condom, it was BLURRED! What is going on? It wasn't a nipple or a penis, it was an ordinary, run-of-the-mill condom, for god's sake. Was this a network thing or should I be directing this comment at my local station, KNME. I cannot believe that anyone would censor something like this.

Howard Swenson, Cedar Crest, NM

Mystery Solved

Here's the explanation from the NewsHour:

"In the footage we shot and used in our Tanzania HIV piece, the HIV prevention volunteer was demonstrating how to use a condom by putting it on over a large, long wooden stick carved into the shape of a large penis. As we are a show that airs during the dinner hour in many areas, and often attract a family-viewing audience, we chose to err on the side of not being offensive to some viewers by blurring out the penis-shaped stick. Inevitably this meant that the condom being put on the stick was also blurred out. In making choices like this we obviously run the risk of offending others who prefer a more truthful presentation."

A Rose Needs Daylight to Put on a Smiley Face

I love the Charlie Rose Show which comes on at 10:30 pm. I have emailed my local PBS station, which is TPT in St. Paul, Minnesota, for several years now requesting that each show be rebroadcast the following day on daytime PBS TV preferably around 1 pm or 2 pm (and including on Saturday for the Friday night's show.) Yes, I know I could tape it. That is not my point. I consider the Charlie Rose Show to be the most informative, intelligent show on TV, and because of its late time, I would say there are millions and millions of people who do not even know about it.

Weekday, daytime programming on PBS in my area is a wasteland for adults. Fluff and drivel. What is the competition? Soap operas! Game shows! Are all of these kids' programs really necessary? Are the wee ones going to fall apart if their favorite program is eliminated and/or moved to a different time slot? Maybe if there weren't so many PBS programs babysitting kids all day, the little ones would get off their rumps and go and do some imaginative play. Perhaps PBS needs a kids' show on in the early evening when the parent is trying to put supper together and doing the dishes and looking at the mail, etc.

The world has real problems that need real solutions. Charlie Rose's guests give me hope that someone is paying attention. And I wouldn't mind it a bit if Tavis Smiley followed Charlie Rose on daytime TV.

Naomi Lifejoy, Inver Grove Heights, MN

Sesame Calle?

I have had it with kids programming during the day. PBS has gone totally biased toward one nationality. We do not have cable so I do not have a lot of options for my child. Every time I turn on PBS for my kid to watch we get Spanish and Mexico crammed down our throats. It's all Sesame Street teaches about anymore. They used to celebrate all the nationalities, but now all the focus is on Mexico. Sesame Street has gotten really bad, but then there is the Maya and Miguel show, all Spanish and Mexico, and the Dragon Tales where all the kids and dragons are also Mexican. As if that isn't bad enough they always air the same Mexican episodes on Sesame St over and over and they have to air Dragon Tales, all Mexican, several times a day. I know exactly what's going on. You are all trying to educate the poor little Mexican kids that can't speak English at the expense of the American kids. Spanish and Mexico are 50% of what is being aired during the day. I suggest you try teaching about something else for a change. Pick a new topic already. There are other countries out there that my kid might like to learn about.

Winston Salem, NC

Other Things . . .

After seeing a "Crossroads" show ["Homegrown: Islam in Prison"] about the JIS trial, I was very frustrated with the continued presentation of the population discrepancies between African American inmates and Caucasian inmates in our prison systems. A man made a point of saying that African Americans account for around 12% of America's population, but nearly 50% of our prisons population, and called this fact "injustice". This man was preaching in a mosque to a crowd of mostly converted-in-prison African American Muslims, and I fail to see how this preaches a message of peace and coexistence with Christians, Jewish, or any other non-Muslim faith or race. In truth, this is simply a very justified result of the percentage of African Americans who become involved in drugs and gangs and commit the crimes that put them in prison to start with when compared to the percentage of Caucasians doing those things. I, as a Caucasian, am sick and tired of being portrayed or perceived as "the bad guy" or as the one to "blame" for the percentage of African Americans in prison. When will reverse racism be acknowledged? When will the "minority" populations stop laying everything at the feet of the Caucasian population and take responsibility for their own shortcomings and actions as individuals, rather than as members of a specific group? The message of "it's only racism if it's said by a white person" needs to stop!!

A.M., Fresno, CA

Do you actually consider it "news integrity" to call what is now a 50 minute program the "NewsHour"?

Edwin Day, Bellevue, WA

What I would like to point out is that it is very easy to use video clips of candidates running for office as a tool for influence. During the nightly news with Gwen Ifill, for instance, there were video clips of the Republican candidates and they showed Romney, Giuliani, Thompson and Huckabee. None were negative or complimentary, just clips. Later the video clips showed the debates and these were more pointed. What I did not find very satisfactory is that video clips were used to show other candidates in a less positive way. In other words I find that the cutting room is using video clips to show some candidates in a positive way to your audience and other clips in a neutral way and some only in a negative way, if at all. This is not acceptable. I am specifically referring to Ron Paul. Dr. Paul may be at the opposite end of the political spectrum from PBS and NPR and is a direct threat to PBS's leftist slant but, using underhanded methods to put presidential candidates in a different light than others, is not acceptable from the so called Public Broadcasting Network. In Philadelphia two Saturdays ago he had a crowd of over 5000 people. This was not reported very well in the media and yet, this is the largest crowd by a very wide margin of any candidate from either party this year.

Peter Courtenay Stephens, Hayes, VA

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