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PBS Ombudsman

A FAIR Analysis?

While news organizations were focused heavily last week on the scandal surrounding Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), my inbox was filled with e-mails that were mainly about two other topics.

One involves a new, critical study of the PBS's nightly "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" by the media watch group known as FAIR, for "Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting," which describes itself as a "progressive" group. When FAIR publishes one of its assessments it tells its subscribers where to write to take follow-up action, and so a lot of them did.

The other subject attracting a fair amount of mail — heavily favorable — was the first in a series of three new programs on "Moyers on America" featuring correspondent Bill Moyers. This initial offering aired Oct. 4 and was titled "Capitol Crimes." It presented an in-depth look at the wide web of political and special-interest corruption surrounding the activities of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

There was also some mail from viewers responding to last week's column about the continuing uncertainty surrounding issues of censorship induced by confusion about Federal Communication Commission rulings on alleged indecency, and fear of being hit with fines that are now 10 times as high as in the past.

So this is going to be a fairly long column. It includes a summary of FAIR's findings, a link to their full report, a response from the NewsHour's Executive Producer Linda Winslow, some thoughts of mine, a sampling of letters from FAIR subscribers, a sampling of viewer reactions to the Moyers' report, and the censorship issue.

Here's the headline and press release/summary that FAIR published:

Study Finds Lack of Balance, Diversity, Public at PBS NewsHour; Public TV's flagship news program offers standard corporate fare

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS's flagship news program, touts its "signature style — low-key, evenhanded, inclusive of all perspectives"; Corporation for Public Broadcasting ombud Ken Bode called it "the mothership of balance." But a new FAIR study finds that the NewsHour fails to provide either balance or diversity of perspectives — or a true public-minded alternative to its corporate competition.

To evaluate the NewsHour's evenhandedness and commitment to the public interest, Extra! studied its guest list during the six-month period spanning October 2005 through March 2006.

Among the most prominent findings:

Among partisan sources, Republicans outnumbered Democrats on the NewsHour by 2-to-1 (66 percent vs. 33 percent). Only one representative of a third party appeared during the study period.

People of color made up only 15 percent of US sources. African-Americans made up 9 percent, Latinos 2 percent, and Asian-Americans and people of Mideastern descent made up one percent each. Alberto Gonzales accounted for more than 30 percent of Latino sources, while Condoleeza Rice accounted for nearly 13 percent of African-American sources.

Male sources outnumbered women by more than 4-to-1 (82 percent to 18 percent). Moreover, 72 percent of US guests were white males, while just 6 percent were women of color.

At a time when a large proportion of the US public already favored withdrawal from Iraq, "stay the course" sources outnumbered pro-withdrawal sources more than 5-to-1. In the entire six months studied, not a single peace activist was heard on the NewsHour on the subject of Iraq.

Public interest groups accounted for just 4 percent of total sources. General public — "person in the street," workers, students — accounted for only 14 percent, while current and former government and military officials totaled 50 percent of all sources.

Segments on Hurricane Katrina accounted for less than 10 percent of all sources, but provided nearly half (46 percent) of all African-American sources during the study period. Those African-Americans were largely presented as victims rather than leaders or experts: In segments on the human impact of the storm, African-Americans made up 51 percent of sources, but in reconstruction segments, whites dominated with 72 percent of sources; 59 percent of all African-American sources across Katrina segments were general public sources.

The findings confirmed the results of FAIR's 1990 study of the NewsHour, which found that the PBS news program offered less diversity than ABC's Nightline.

"PBS's editorial guidelines emphasize that 'the surest road to intellectual stagnation and social isolation is to stifle the expression of uncommon ideas,'" said study co-author Steve Rendall. "With over 15 years on that road, the NewsHour has utterly failed the public it exists to serve."

Here's the link to the full FAIR report: http://www.fair.org/noindex/NewsHour.pdf

The NewsHour Responds

I asked NewsHour Executive Producer Winslow to respond. I should point out that some of her response goes to the full report rather than to the specific points raised in the press release/summary printed above. Here is what she has to say:

"FAIR seems to be accusing us of covering the people who make decisions that affect people's lives, many of whom work in government, the military, or corporate America. That's what we do: we're a news program, and that's who makes news. They also seem to have confused the NewsHour with all of PBS, when it comes to a "mandate" (referred to in the fuller report); the one they're quoting comes from a forty-year-old Carnegie Commission Report about public broadcasting. We cover the news as fairly and impartially as we can. Period.

"Our mission is to provide information about developments and policy decisions that affect large numbers of Americans. We make it a point to question the decision makers, and when we do we also make it a point to include other views that provide balance and/or a different perspective either in the same program, or one produced soon after. We try to book the most qualified guests we can for every segment; when they are people who work for the government, the military or corporate America, their sex, age, ethnicity and political affiliation reflect decisions made by the people who hired (or voted for) THEM.

"I have no idea how FAIR arrived at the numbers the report contains, but it sounds like they have included every sound bite we used in the news summary at the top of the program. If not, I have no idea how they determined that we had President Bush on the program 102 times in the six month period they studied; we interviewed him last December for the first time since he was elected President. He is indeed a Republican, as are the leaders of the House and Senate and most members of the Administration. So if they're including every sound bite from someone in the government who is making news in their tally, I don't think it's surprising that Republicans outnumber Democrats in their "count". I also think that's a pretty specious argument.

"I'm glad to see the percentage of women guests is improving (again, something that is documented in the full report in comparison to earlier surveys). We have made a concerted effort to improve in this area, and that effort continues. Again, as women move into more decision-making positions in government and business, we expect to see even more of them on the program. The same goes for non-white guests, and I'm glad to see that we've also improved there. In fact, it looks to me like we've improved in just about every way FAIR could think of to categorize what we do.

"I take issue with the way the FAIR report characterizes each guest, which they have obviously done very subjectively. Witness the trashing of Mark Shields and Tom Oliphant (in the full report), who are not liberal ENOUGH for FAIR's taste. When you get down to arguing about DEGREES of left-and-rightness, I think you undermine your own argument. They are also inconsistent. They count every Republican sound bite as a sign of imbalance, but at one point they decided to assign more "value" to a studio appearance than one on tape, thereby dismissing the significance of our decision to devote most of our available tape production resources to covering the after-effects of Katrina during this six-month period. That decision makes precisely the opposite point from FAIR's interpretation.

"Ultimately, as FAIR itself discovered, counting heads on a news program is meaningless unless you also analyze what they are saying. In that sense, this report simply proved that FAIR is quite capable of rendering selective judgments about who, and what, is important and worth listening to."

My Two-Cents

Before I get to the letters, let me add my two-cents to this conflict.

First, a word about Ms. Winslow. In my five years as ombudsman at The Washington Post, and now almost a year here at PBS, I find her to be the news executive most responsive to viewers, or readers, that I have encountered. She takes the time to give full, substantive replies, not just the "thank you for your concerns" response that one sometimes gets from news organizations. She acknowledges mistakes or shortcomings, when that is what took place, and defends and explains, without pulling her punches, when that is called for.

Second, a word about FAIR. The Associated Press dispatch reporting on the new study described the media watch group as a "liberal advocacy organization." I think that is a fair description. But FAIR does serious work and is respected for its stated role of "offering constructive criticism in an effort to correct" what it sees as "media imbalance," especially toward perceived right-wing political bias. News organizations need to stay sharp. One way to do that is to be challenged and to give a fair reading to critical analysis no matter which side of the political divide it comes from.

Third, some combined thoughts about the NewsHour and the FAIR analysis.

I am a big fan of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and I've said so a couple of times in this column over the past year. I think it is the best news program on television. Whatever its flaws, viewers are vastly better off, meaning better informed as citizens, having this program in its current form than not having it, in my independent opinion. I find its news summary more comprehensive than commercial news broadcasts, and its individual segments almost always enlightening in some fashion.

I have, at times, also criticized aspects of a particular program and agreed with viewers who felt it was not challenging enough at times in its questioning of guests and what they are saying. That is not Lehrer's style; his style is to elicit news and views from those being interviewed and let the viewers make up their own mind. In general, I agree with that. Indeed, I think one of the flaws in the kind of head-counting that FAIR uses to forge conclusions is the failure to take into account that an intelligent audience is able to cut through partisan rhetoric, so that party spokesmen are not necessarily gaining any advantage when they keep talking about things that viewers understand don't mesh with other facts and their own experiences.

But these are, as someone once said, perilous times. As a viewer and journalist, I find the program occasionally frustrating; sometimes too polite, too balanced when issues are not really balanced, and too many political and emotion-laden statements pass without factual challenges from the interviewer.

Although the NewsHour, in my view, has done a solid and steady job of keeping the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in front of viewers, better than that done by the commercial networks, I thought the most important element of the FAIR critique was its point about the imbalance in views expressed about Iraq. This is the most controversial war since Vietnam, and its effects may be much longer lasting. I share the sense that strong voices in opposition have not been heard nearly as often as those who support a "stay the course" position or a slightly more moderate view.

The point about the relative lack of women guests also seems worthy of addressing. A similar gender gap on the NewsHour was pointed out in a survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism last year. Ironically, the NewsHour and its staff, although relatively small, is probably one of the most visibly diverse — in terms of women and minorities — of any major news organization. I have always given it high marks, personally, for both being diverse and seeming to understand its importance.

But the FAIR numbers certainly are worth studying. On one hand, the FAIR report appears like some affirmative action report card, and that is not the way news organizations operate in most situations. They look for the policy makers and the policy critics and experts. But this is an enormously diverse country and there is a definite advantage to broadening your Rolodex to include people other than those that are always easy to go back to. My impression was that the NewsHour did a pretty good job of this, but the numbers seem to present a different picture and so they probably need to do better.

Here Are Some of the Letters

FAIR's recent review of balance and diversity on the NewsHour corresponds with my impressions. As a long time daily viewer of the NewsHour, I have become concerned that too many guests are simply spouting the political line of the day for their party and not making thoughtful comments about the issue. And several times the typical Republican "message-of-the-day" hack has been balanced only by somebody from a fairly neutral organization like the Brookings Institute who did objectively try to address the issue. I know you've had undue pressure from the government, but you will lose your supporters if this continues.

Ted Linden, Palo Alto, CA

I love the NewsHour. My son and I watch it nearly every night, and I find it to be the best nightly TV news source available. However, I was shocked and distressed by the findings of this FAIR study. I strongly urge you, as a public television supporter as well as a huge fan of the NewsHour, to please modify your guest, commentator and source policy to deliberately include a true representation of the American viewpoint.

Richard E. Moore, Phoenix, AZ

I always watched MacNeil/Lehrer, then the NewsHour. But over the Clinton years and the rise of FOX News and the Right Wing talk show hosts . . . I started noticing a change in The NewsHour and Washington Week. This change sped up once Bush got elected. I found I was getting blander versions of stories, hard questions were left unasked, the balance of interviews went to moderate to conservative sources. Other viewpoints were left out altogether. (And I don't believe that a different point should be presented for the sake of "balance" if a valid opposition point of view does not exist — "balance" can be taken to illogical extremes.) But can you honestly say that an anti-war argument was not a valid point of view and had no place on your program?

Pamela Donaldson, Bend, OR

I am a long time fan of The NewsHour on PBS. I am greatly saddened by the choice of "experts" that are being asked to participate in discussions recently. I just watched a discussion regarding Speaker Hastert, and if he should or should not resign. Both guests were from the far right politically and both had obvious alternative political agendas.

I have always enjoyed the quality of guests who participate on this program. It seems that the quality has declined within the last several months. I have relied on this program for unbiased reporting. I am afraid that it is moving away from this long held ethic.

Susan Hakanson, Glenwood Springs, CO

I am really sick and tired of seeing pro-administration, pro-corporate people on the "NewsHour." Where are the women, the peace activists, the feminists, the Greens, the Democrats, the brown people? The other night I had the misfortune to listen to two white guys basically agreeing with each other and both conservative. Who do you want to watch your program?

Judith Salzman, Tucson, AZ

For years, the program has been taking a free ride on Jim Lehrer's evenhanded, balanced wisdom-exuding personality. Of course sane people are going to prefer contemporary commentary from an educated, sensible human being over the shrill, pompous flackery pumped out by Fox News, etc. But personality is by no means enough. I'm a fellow 63-year-old white man, and as much as I admire Lehrer's personal balance, I can't watch the program. Every once in a while I check in to see if the same values are being touted, and soon click off in disappointment. Just whom among the younger generation do you imagine you're reaching? Or don't you care?

John Bostrom, Staten Island, NY

I'm a retired press chief for a federal agency and former editor of a national English-language magazine for Latinos published from the 1970s through the 1980s. As a longtime viewer of the PBS Jim Lehrer NewsHour, I have become disheartened by the limited appearance on the program of respected Latinos representing a wide range of expertise and views regarding national and international issues of the day. The same could be said about blacks and women, but the exploding presence of Latino professionals in all specialties cries for better use of diverse news sources. You're about to lose a loyal fan if things don't improve soon.

Arlington, VA

I read the FAIR report regarding the NewsHour today and must say I was very disappointed with their findings. I value the program very much and will not stop watching it because of this report, but I do think these statistics should be a wake-up call for the editorial staff. Perhaps they have faltered on their mission to provide a diverse group of voices and it is time to reevaluate their practices.

Serena Donovan, Sacramento, CA

Analyses of guest lists on television news programs may be an imperfect method for gauging patterns of news coverage, but it is one of the most reliable and replicable methods for generating comparative data. And while it may not be the best way to catch the fine distinctions and nuances of reporting practices, it is a good tool for monitoring gross patterns of coverage over time, especially when the data show a consistent and clear pattern, with 4 to 1 or 5 to 1 source discrepancies appearing in study after study.

I have looked at the findings of the recent FAIR study of NewsHour guests in 2005-2006. These findings are no surprise, as they parallel the results of numerous other studies of journalism coverage over the last two decades. But they do confirm a serious continuing problem: the tendency of mainstream American journalists to serve as "stenographers to power." It is obvious from the FAIR data, as it has been obvious in numerous previous studies, that the single biggest problem is journalists' heavy over-reliance on official sources. Relying so heavily on sources from government and inside-the-beltway Washington think tanks, as well as favoring corporate business and finance sources over smaller business, regional, local or community voices, inevitably and inescapably skews the reporting we get, both in terms of the information and data that is made available and the news frames within which interviews and discussions on the program take place.

I urge producers, editors and reporters at the NewsHour to seriously rethink their routine daily practices regarding sources and the range of views found on the program. As a long-time NewsHour viewer, a PBS member, and a scholar and close observer of journalism, I find that the FAIR data on guests conforms very closely with my own perceptions of the embedded (albeit presumably unintentional) bias that has characterized NewsHour reporting over the years: the tendency to focus on relatively narrow, establishment-centered frames of reference in the coverage of nearly every issue.

Without the same commercial pressures faced by advertising-sponsored news operations, PBS has the freedom, and the public obligation, to reflect as wide a range of American voices as possible. There is really no excuse for the NewsHour to be serving as a platform for already influential public and business leaders to further disseminate their views.

Michael Griffin, Northfield, MN
Professor of Media Studies, Carleton College

I've read the FAIR study of the balance of the NewsHour. They present damning evidence that you are not fulfilling your mandate to be even handed and to provide a forum for alternative points of view. The most glaring and tragic example is your decisions to provide war supporters 10 times as much access as war opponents, even though there are more war opponents in America than there are war supporters. (I wonder how many MORE Americans would oppose the war if they had access to more antiwar opinions.)

How do you respond to this evidence of your imbalance?

Dennis Foley, Holland, MI

I am one of those people who used to make an effort to get home on time for the "NewsHour." In the last few years, I have gradually detached myself from the program, and now I know why. As a minority, I have been less and less interested in the choice of guests and the "balanced" views expressed on the show. I expect something different from the NewsHour. I wish it had more objective non-partisan analysis, and less of the "fair and balanced" nonsense we can watch at other stations.

Maria Barbosa, Frederick, MD

In this era of media consolidation, your broadcasts are the last bastion of independence. Information is a valuable commodity, as any modern industry will attest. Information purity determines its value, along with its source and its currency. In this field your communication of information to the general public has been long regarded as invaluable, being some of the purest, least adulterated available. Apparently, recent political pressure has had an impact on your programming and your ability to continue to be regarded as a premier source of clean information. FAIR's six-month study, which I find impeccable, indicates an information slant that can only be attributed to political bias or ignorance, and I would never accuse you of the latter. For the public good, I hope you can weather this political storm of media control and regain your trusted position as provider of the purest form of information that can be had from any media source.

Daniel Mauro, Newport News, VA

As a fan of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, I was disappointed by the results of the FAIR study. I hope PBS and Jim Lehrer take these findings seriously and commit to using more balanced news sources. The overall findings about lack of balance and diversity were troublesome, but as a woman it was particularly disappointing to read, "Women were substantially underrepresented on the NewsHour."

Pamela W. Browne, Long Beach, CA

I would like to ask a few questions about the fact that PBS favors Republicans four to one. Sounds like a headline. Was the 4 to 1 Repubs over everyone else reported on that PBS flagship news show? Any idea why not? And why isn't this fact reported anywhere in American mainstream media (you have to go to the Internet and the blogs for that)? If the headline were instead, 'PBS Favors Dems 4 to 1', the Republican echo machine, er, 'Media', would make sure everyone heard about it 24-7. Wouldn't they?

Cambridge, MA

I hope you take (the FAIR report) as constructive comment and try to even out your attention to the news topics and sources. Many people count on you to be fair. They know the corporate media have failed in their mission to inform the public and depend on PBS. Please don't let us down.

Frank Gerace, Rockaway Park, NY

Viewers React to "Capitol Crimes"

Bravo on your piece on the Jack Abramoff piece portrayed on "Moyers on America." It is refreshing to see some actual investigative journalism at a time when the news media appear to be pundits for corporate and the Republican agenda. It should be noted that I am a moderate without a specific party affiliation . . . I vote for candidates in both parties. Again, great journalism! I can always count on PBS to tell it like they discover it!

Scott P. Belanger, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Gee, another Bill Moyers special — in case we were beginning to doubt how evil and corrupt Republicans are. Until watching "Capitol Crimes," I wasn't aware the history of political corruption all began with Jack Abramoff. No Keating 5, no Dan Rostenkowski, no Hazel O'Leary, Jim Wright, etc. — somehow I missed Moyers' take on those Democratic scandals over the years. News flash for Moyers and PBS: Abramoff is in prison, and Tom DeLay has long since been disgraced. On the other hand, one of Abramoff's Democratic beneficiaries, Harry Reid of Nevada, is still in office but merits nary a mention in "Capitol Crimes." So, what's the groundbreaking story here, other than the upcoming election? Do the cultivated minds at PBS actually believe a partisan hatchet job like this somehow elevates the political discourse? When is PBS/Moyers going to stop running interference for the Democrats?

David Nevers, Dallas, TX

I have watched your station for years. I applaud your recent program (tonight) on Tom Delay and corruption in government. I applaud this program and as a businessman who is frustrated in government and its corruptions wanting to do something, (anything).

Ft. Mitchell, KY

Appreciate having Bill Moyers back on public television. His program on Capitol Crimes and DeLay, et al is the kind of reporting we need and respect.

Nancy Considine, Hatfield, MA

I just watched the one-sided attack from Bill Moyer's show on Oct. 4, 2006. Where was the fairness, if Moyer/PBS wants to run a political ad shouldn't they have to run equal time to the other side. If you accepted all the hot air coming out of Moyer it was only the Republicans that had bad apples. I do remember some bad behavior coming from the other side too. The timing also stinks. I half expect a rebroadcast a day or two before the election. If Moyer had his way Tom Delay doesn't need a trial he is already guilty.

Caseyville, IA

Just finished watching Bill Moyers on America's CAPITOL CRIMES. A fantastic production. This should be shown over and over before the November election. PLEASE!!! Thomas Frank's and Norman Ornstein's comments on the "culture of corruption" need to be heard by everyone!!

Joan Hurst, Florence, AZ

I'm sure that PBS will be deluged by complaints (perhaps even from CPB) that the Bill Moyers' program "Capitol Crimes" lacked "balance." The complainers should be told to get lost. When a program spends a couple of hours exposing corruption, why on earth should it then have to turn around and give time for defending the indefensible? Moyers' program brought to mind the best of Edward R. Murrow. Documentaries like this are all too rare in our media, which explains why we have such a poorly informed and easily manipulated electorate.

Rochester, NY

I'd like to congratulate PBS and Bill Moyers on last night's Moyers on America. Bravo!! This is the type of real journalism that has been so lacking. I shut off cable because I was so disgusted by the lack of content. I rarely watch TV at all, and instead get my news from the Internet. This program was refreshingly real. Instead of glossing over things or appearing to have an ulterior motive, this actually seemed to have a public interest! Thanks again; this is what PBS is about!

C. Keller, Austin, TX

Thank God for Bill Moyers and those involved in his programs. They are far and away the best thing on public — or any — television. I had almost given up on you after Tomlinson and his cohorts were allowed to hold sway. Please continue Moyers' programs, Frontline, and other excellent offerings.

Fran Hathaway, West Palm Beach, FL

I am so delighted to have Bill Moyers back on PBS in whatever capacity/disguise/venue. He represents all that is good in TV programming.

Thomas Schattenberg, Rochester, MN

Bill Moyers' "Capitol Crimes" is one of the best I've seen to explain what is and encourage us as citizens to demand more from our leaders and ourselves. I was enthralled and energized that the information is out there for all to see.

Santa Barbara, CA

I was duly outraged by Bill Moyers' report on Capitol Crime. And on second thought, I was also outraged that you aired this program so close to the date of the congressional election. Are you going to give the Democrats equal time?

Greesnboro, AL

I am sorry to say I am not the least bit surprised by the Jack Abramoff story. Frankly, I don't think anyone is. I am surprised that PBS so openly produced this story. I hope it is not a Democratic agenda. I usually trust your presentations. I wish we could depend on the media to inform us of the real corruption in our local, state and national governments.

D. Roark, Kill Devil Hills, NC

"Bill Moyers on America" is the kind of show that gives PBS a reason for existence. "Capitol Crimes" is a loud warning to all Americans that we can ill afford to ignore. It has colored my reading and hearing of all news events since.

Steve Hagberg, Pasadena, CA

I can't tell you how much I appreciate you educating the people about what is happening in the world of politics. I am pertaining to the show Capital Crime with Bill Moyers. If even it is partially true, we as people of a nation need to make some changes in campaign financing.

Karen R., Carmichael, CA

Sherry Jones and Foster Wiley are geniuses and Moyers is a national treasure. Bless you.

Kris Jacobs, St. Paul, MN

On 'Fear of Fining'

This whole issue of FCC fines is a very problematic one and PBS has my sympathy in their efforts to hack a trail through the problem. It is clear that fear of fines — as so aptly named by you — is causing self censorship. And self censorship has to be something that a liberal society looks squarely in the face and addresses. For myself, I see 2 specific issues that I would like to see discussed:

1) It is what it is. Or, "the particular nature of the FCC." Many of the viewing complainers writing to PBS or you to complain are not really getting their head around the fact that the FCC is a reactive organization, and to be precise they react to a reaction. PBS's defenders wail the government is out to censor the arts when what is really happening is: A TV viewer sees something they don't like, they fill out a complaint form with the FCC and then the FCC decides how to react to that complaint. PBS defenders should primarily be venting their anger at the fellow citizen who filed a complaint. The FCC is merely managing airwaves that are OWNED by the American People. Just like the Forest Service manages our shared resource of timber and land. The airwaves are not print media, which is both owned by the one doing the printing AND protected by the constitution. I for one am glad that the Forest Service has to listen to hikers and snowmobilers both, and I am glad that the FCC is set up to hear from individual complaints. But running a show up the flagpole and waiting to see how the FCC will react to a viewer's reaction is not fun for PBS. Thus PBS should work with Congress to find better direction on what they can and cannot do. Or even to change the FCC from a reactive structure.

2) The 10 p.m. Safe Harbor. In my reading of the complaints by the television industry as a whole, it is not clear to me why this mole hill is made out to be a mountain. Just air the controversial stuff later in the day or start talking about the safe harbor and really get it into the dialogue as to why it is no good to wait until 10 p.m. TV and PBS and PBS's defenders may have a really good argument about why the late safe harbor is bad. I just haven't heard it addressed, really at all, and it confuses me.

J. K. Durham, NC

The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, what an oxymoron! We need our government to censor history for us because we cannot stand to look at it uncensored? I am not surprised that the Republican right-wing zealots would want to practice censorship. Without censorship how would they stop the accurate accusations of their conduct? We cannot challenge them because to describe their actions violates the law! I understand their motivation (to avoid criticism of their illegal activity) what is PBS's motivation?

Michael Knight, Tampa, FL

Yes, the ending of the Warhol documentary was poor and in bad taste by PBS, but just about everyone else is doing it too . . . get used to it. The local commercial station that airs "Jeopardy" does the same thing to cut two minutes prior to the hour to pack "Late Breaking, Investigative" news into a thirty minute slot that is already packed with commercials, crappy banter, teaser, and internal promotions.

David Petersen, Kansas City, MO

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