In reading the reactions to your program, they can be placed in two groups. Those that thought you were fair and those who thought you were Pro-Kerry. If you were truly fair, and given the 50/50 poll data, where are the comments complaining about an anti-Kerry bias? I don't see one. That leads me to believe that those wacko right-wingers may have a point on this one.
I like many others knew who I was voting for before viewing "The Choice 2004" but I must say after all the mud slinging from both sides, I think that this program was fair to both Bush and Kerry and didn't seem to side with either of them. I learned things about both men that I hadn't known before and found it to be overall a very interesting program. Of course many people could spin this and say that it's pro-Bush or pro-Kerry but I think its one of the few objective looks at the two candidates that is out there. I am glad that I watched it and I think everyone interested in politics should view it as well.
People, please! I have to agree with the Frontline editors here. If ANYONE is biased, it is clearly the VIEWING AUDIENCE. Surely you've noticed how clearly bifurcated everyone is about Bush. You either love him or hate him. Has anyone heard of the term "selective perception"? That is the phenomenon wherein people see what they want to see.
What this program showed was that the two candidates have two very different personalities. The program did not place any value judgements on either of them - that is left up to the viewing audience. This was merely a biography, yet some of you have reacted as if you just got done watching a Michael Moore film. RELAX!
This was a shamefully partisan piece that cannot legitimately be presented as an objective review of the two candidates.
The portrayal of John Kerry as the highly principled, intelligent, understandably nuanced, public servant with great achievments during his Senate career and military career while portraying George Bush as an abject failure who is incapapable of rational thought and handed the presdency by the old guards of the Republican Party can only be described as extreme bias.
Perhaps you can advise Sinclair Broadcasting on how to "cover" a slanted piece of partisan broadcasting as a public service. PBS is a disgrace.
FRONTLINE's editors respond:
FRONTLINE has received a large number of responses to "The Choice 2004." Perhaps it is not a surprise that given the polarized and sharply divided electorate, we had a sharply divided response. Many found our documentary thoughtful, balanced and helpful. And most television reviewers agreed (see the "Press Reaction" section).
Other viewers are telling us our documentary was one-sided and unfair. Most of these complaints charge that we favored Senator Kerry over President Bush. We respectfully disagree. Again, turning to the overwhelming favorable press response, we find adjectives like 'evenhanded' 'impartial' 'comprehensive and 'dispassionate.' Dorothy Rabinowitz leads her review in The Wall Street Journal with the following: 'There's at least one moment on Frontline's portraits of the presidential contenders that may cause some of John Kerry's handlers to wince. Others may, of course, applaud.'
Rabinowitz spotted an important truth about our program. On the Senator's side of the ledger, we took pains to report on many aspects of his career that could cause a voter to think hard about supporting him. The same can be said for President Bush. For example, Kerry's consistent record opposing most military actions could be seen in a positive or a negative light, depending on one's perspective, while Bush's steadfastness and decisiveness likewise could be interpreted as a strength or a weakness. We reached no conclusions on these matters. We endorsed neither candidate. We offered portraits of the two men largely in the words of their friends and relatives. Since much of President's Bush's biography was covered in the last election, we added more insight about him from one of the nation's most respected journalists who has written extensively about Bush, and whose revealing take on Bush was not partisan.
We have read every letter and while we may disagree with some of them, it has helped us to better understand the concerns. And it certainly shows how deeply our viewers care about the choice on November 2nd - and that is to be welcomed.
Kudos, Frontline for a wonderfully objective piece.
I already knew that I would be voting for John Kerry. The Choice helped me to see past all the anti-Bush spin/hype/rhetoric and realize that while I disagree with the direction that he wants to take this country that he has the countries best intentions at heart, and that he isn't the miserable excuse of a human that I thought he was.
He just has different ideologies. I can live with that.
Doing a quick consensus among my friends, it seems that my conservative friends are offended because they feel Bush was misrepresented, yet the democrats that I know came away with a slightly less negative view. Id say you landed right smack dab in the middle.. Good work!
FRONTLINE staff, I have long since stopped expecting the three networks to present anything akin to balanced telejournalism. And while PBS historically holds fast to positions left of center, I was deeply disturbed by your 'Choices' piece. I am, in a sense, in mourning about the TV station as a whole. I feel betrayed and insulted. I expected more of FRONTLINE.
Any adult's life has enough mistakes and regrets to fill a couple hours of airtime. I would like to think that any senator's life would have ample positive moments to fill an hour or two. You chose to cast Senator Kerry in nothing but a positive light. Conversely, you cast doubt on virtually everything President Bush has ever done, short of breathing consistently.
You attempt to convince the viewer that Kerry's career-long indecisiveness about core issues of ethics, morality and national security are, in fact, indicative of circumspective brilliance which we, mere mortals, couldn't hope to understand. You apparently see no down side to what his own advisors acknowledge are splintered, multitudinous views on many issues.
You wield enormous power over the TV medium. It might have occurred to someone on your staff to mention that you also have enormous responsibility. It is infuriating to those of us who travel with you on this ship called America, that you are so intent on drilling holes in the hull.
San Antonio, Texas
Thankyou for this timely and provocative documentary about George Bush and John Kerry. I now hold both men in much higher esteem than I did before watching your review of their lives and actions.
I feel I must comment on the many strongly negative responses to your documentary. I saw none of the bias toward John Kerry many other viewers objected to. Both men emerged with greater stature and flawed. In his later years, John Kerry compromised himself too far away from the convictions that drove him in his youth. George Bush's uncompromising certainty of his actions, something he claims as a strength in his campaign, greatly troubles me. I don't know what the viewers who felt your documentary was biased objected to.
Plainfield, New Jersey
Happened upon your show by accident & was mesmerized.
The background on young GW made me feel connected to him as a regular guy with strengths and weaknesses. He felt very human. I particularly liked seeing him working for his Dad's Congressional race. GW seems sincere - though I dislike divisive politics, his humanity is appealing.
On the other hand, watching Kerry get embarassed by schmoozing with the Nicaraguan president and equivocating on the 1st Gulf War gave me pause. As horrible as bad decisions are (and we are facing a pile of them today), the frustration of equivocation leading to inaction almost seems worse.
Your show opened my eyes in both directions. Thank you for providing some badly needed background info on these two boomers.
After watching all the media spins on the candidates and the issues that we consider, I feel Frontline did an excellent job at presenting the facts and allowing the viewer to evaluate those facts. That is precisely the responsiblity of every journalist. In terms of the presentation of the candidates' strentghs and weaknesses,the facts of each man's character have finally been revealed. I can see why people who want a strong leader could mistake Bush's aggressive style for strength.
But, when confronted with a choice to serve his country during the Vietnam era, he used his influence to avoid it. I guess perception is everything and since he talks tough, that must be all that matters. However, if he wins, and if he wants to put my children in harm's way,I better see his kids right in the middle of it, first.
After viewing this program, It was very obvious that it was slanted to present Bush in a negative light and to promote Sen. Kerry's campaign. It is ironic that this program was shown the night before the election. Have you noticed that all the letters that were sent in were saying that it was either balanced or anti-Bush.....No one has suggested that it was biased against Kerry. Shouldn't this tell you something? I was very disappointed that this was not a true balance for both candidates. Sorry, you struck out on this one.
I always count on you to deliver stories with a depth that isn't found anywhere else on television. This piece was no exception. I have known how I would vote for months (and really, years), so this report hasn't changed my mind, but I appreciate the opportunity to better understand the two men vying for the Presidency.
I am bemused at the vehement response of some here; they claim bias, but I wonder if they aren't really just unhappy at their own reaction to the stories of these men, which perhaps betrays what they wanted to believe.
kerry advisors commenting on kerry while richard clark and bob woodward comment on bush. have you guys completely given up on any attempt at looking like un-biased journalists?
honestly, i like much of your broadcasting but i'm amazed that you've been able to maintain your tax exempt status and government funding as non-partisan. don't look for my check in the mail anytime soon. i could support you personally and through my company when you at least attempted to appear non-partisan but no more. you may want to reference irs v. naacp.
I read through the first two web pages of letters and totally concurr with those that think the Frontline special "The Choice 2004" was biased toward Senator Kerry. You have enough letters with this sentiment, so I won't repeat it.
It made me ill to see you air this again at 9:30PM on November 1st. You can count on my opposition to PBS public funding, if it still exists.
After watching "the choice" it was obvious to me that there is a strong bias against Bush. I reasoned it away thinking it would only air once, but three times! Was it more! Come on! I would much rather PBS show two obviously biased shows and let viewers make their own conclusions, but to choose a show to air multiple times as the ideal perspective is just wrong.
We love PBS and feel betrayed as a financial supporter that this show was chosen to air so many times. We hope you learn from this and show a larger variety of shows, on prime time, that would positively reflect either candidate.
Your Kerry promotional kept me glued to the tube for the entire program. If I were a Bush supporter rather than a Democrat, I would be infuriated, though, knowing my tax dollar helped pay for the Kerry ad.
R. L. Patterson
The only thing you overlooked in The Choice 2004 was the Democratic Party endorsement in the credits. It is this kind of blatant journalistic partisanship that provides fuel for the frequent charges of media bias. But then again, Iím sure you couldnít care lessÖ youíre obviously on a mission and youíre accountable to no one outside of the liberal elite running the public broadcasting system.
With the kind of selective historical editing Iíve just witnessed, Iím sure youíve also loaded the discussion comments to make it appear that your journalistic adventure was more warmly received than it actually was.
You should be proud of yourselves. You served your cause well.