A recent news item about a journalism school dean praising the ‘deep analysis’ presentation of PBS NewsHour reports, in conjunction with the NewsHour opening a bureau right at his school, prompts cause for concern about whether journalism schools have stopped teaching old-school hard-nosed reporter tactics in favor of spreading ‘save-the-world propaganda’ under the guise of it being outright “news.”
The article was on March 4th, 2019, “‘PBS NewsHour’ to open its first bureau at ASU’s Cronkite school.” The dean of the school said he was ‘pumped up’ about the pending situation while the reporter of the story rhetorically asked, ‘and why wouldn’t he feel that way?,’ a question which implodes if anyone actually applies traditional reporter-style questioning to the whole matter.
Regarding the NewsHour’s other reporting on racial issues (tagged online to sites elsewhere more often than not), alleged collusion between the current U.S. President and the Russians during the 2016 election, and controversial physiology subjects, I leave their unmistakable bias on those topics to others to dissect. My inadvertent specialty is the global warming issue. I periodically update the “NewsHour bias page” at my blog’s menu section when new scientists associated with the IPCC / NOAA / NASA are given unrestricted, unquestioned time on the program to speak about the certainty of catastrophic man-caused global warming, and I was basically prompted to explore this topic almost ten years ago largely because of my concern about why the NewsHour was not giving any time whatsoever to skeptic climate scientists.
After reading this story about the pending NewsHour / Cronkite school news bureau collaboration, I sent a tough email inquiry to Dean Callahan. It is verbatim below, where the four web links I had within it are spelled out. For additional reader insight purposes in this blog post reproduction, I have embedded clickable links into words that deserve screencapture images for posterity, along with two other links to specific items I mentioned. And I added a color highlight at the end for emphasis of what the central problem is.
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I read the news account about the PBS NewsHour’s pending opening of its bureau at the Cronkite school in the print edition of today’s (3/6/19) Arizona Republic newspaper. Let me first say that I’d watched the NewsHour for so long that I still habitually referred to it as the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour long after it changed its name. I also fully applauded Jim Lehrer’s 2009 retirement announcement where he succinctly reinforced his “MacNeil / Lehrer guidelines for journalists” ( https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/im-not-in-the-entertainment-business-and-other-rules-of-macneillehrer-journalism ) which, in my opinion, should be tattooed onto the foreheads of all journalists, and hammered indelibly into the minds of students at the Cronkite school and other journalism schools across the country. Chief among those guidelines are, “Do nothing I cannot defend,” and “Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.” Trust me on this, I believe there is no greater expression of freedom than freedom of the press, part and parcel with the basic right of free speech. I’m sure you will also agree that in regard to the latter of those two particular journalism guidelines, reporters do a massive disservice to the public when they omit significant parts of any particular story. If you are a decades-long NewsHour viewer like I am, you’ll recall their discussion segments involving U.S. / Soviet sides of international relations during the Reagan era, and regular Israeli / Arab discussions featuring Hisham Melhem and David Makovsky.
Now let me express just how utterly disappointed I am to hear that the NewsHour will have a bureau at the Cronkite school. Mindful that I was about the NewsHour offering full context to stories, I was also mindful during the mid-2000s of the existence of climate scientists who expressed doubt about IPCC climate assessment reports, and I became concerned when the NewsHour did not have any of these scientists on as guests. By 2009, I was concerned enough to write directly to the PBS Ombudsman to ask about this problem, in light of the ClimateGate email scandal at that time (see my letter archived here http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/2009/12/the_mailbag_21.html , down under the “Hot About Warming” subheading).
Are you aware that not once — not once — from 1996 to the present time has the NewsHour permitted a skeptic climate scientist to appear on its program to present a lengthy, detailed explanation of the skeptic side of the issue? Are you aware that during this same time, the NewsHour has had 65 different instances where climate scientists associated with the IPCC, NOAA, and NASA were given unfettered time to tell their side of the science, in which NewsHour hosts and guests did not question what was said? Those aren’t just figures I pull from a clear blue sky, I became perturbed enough with this apparent bias situation that I spent a lengthy amount of time in 2010 quantifying it for an online article I wrote, and have kept a running track of this problem ever since. My count currently stands at 812 instances from 1996 to the present where the NewsHour has either directly discussed the global warming issue or mentioned in a significant way, and within all of those, only six contain any semblance of science points from the skeptic side, and none of those came from people who qualify as climate scientists.
Are you aware that one of the internationally recognized climate scientists of a multi-volume set of skeptic climate science analysis reports ( http://climatechangereconsidered.org/ ) resides and works right here ( http://www.co2science.org/about/chairman.php ) in the Phoenix metro area? Are any of your Cronkite students aware of the depth of science-based material put out by such scientists?
Perhaps you and the Cronkite students are aware of the widespread accusation that such skeptic scientists stand accused of accepting oil/coal money in exchange for fabricated science viewpoints, and may be even aware of how Al Gore spelled out the phrase “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” full screen in his 2006 movie as a ‘smoking gun’ leaked memo strategy from the fossil fuel industry that’s comparable to the infamous “Doubt is our product” tobacco industry strategy phrase. But did you know Gore stated in his movie companion book that the memo “was discovered by the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Ross Gelbspan”? Are you aware of how often that Gelbspan was lauded as a Pulitzer winner over the last two decades? When you enter the name “Gelbspan” into the search window at the Pulitzer organization’s website, does the result you see not greatly trouble you and possibly indicate a far deeper journalistic problem, particularly if you choose to see whether the memos that Gelbspan supposedly discovered really are evidence of a sinister fossil fuel industry directive given to skeptic climate scientists?
In the Arizona Republic‘s interview of you, you stated, “There have been national surveys done where PBS is the most trusted source of information for Americans. Trust in the news media is essential to our effectiveness.” With all due respect, surveys can be worded in such a way as to give pure garbage results, or can be given to particular audiences who are oblivious to subsurface problems with the topic. I whole-heartedly agree with you that trust in the media is critical, but it is a two-way street; the media is obligated to tell the whole truth. From what I’ve seen in the global warming issue, I trust the NewsHour about as far as I can throw the whole organization. They don’t tell the other side of the issue at all, and they are apparently unable to defend this action in all the years I’ve asked them about it. Hari Sreenivasan has actually blocked me from reading his Twitter account because of my repeated inquiries to him about the problem. Don’t get me started on their other biased reporting problems. Suffice it for me to say, the old MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour these days could be retitled the “Mother Jones NewsHour.”
I could go on at considerable length. Feel free to ask me any questions you wish about my opinion and assertions. Try asking the NewsHour administrators why they’ve excluded skeptic climate scientists from their program for two decades, and you may either get the same obtuse response I got from National Affairs Editor Murrey Jacobson in 2009, or you may get a blistering accusation about falling victim to Koch brothers-bought / Fox News-contrived talking points.
Regarding the prospect of having a new NewsHour bureau at the Cronkite school, I’ll leave you with the most basic of questions: do you advocate old-school hard-nosed journalism, or do you give a pass to news outlets that take on the appearance of being propaganda mouthpieces for unsupportable political agendas?
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So far, no reply back from Dean Callahan. He might be busy with other matters, and if he does ultimately respond later, I will add it to this post. If no response is the result, I would still not be able to conclude that he chose to ignore my inquiry, or if he never saw it because a subordinate chose to screen it out. By comparison, regarding the 1100-word inquiry I sent in 2011 to then-retiring Jim Lehrer about the NewsHour’s biased global warming reporting, I still cannot say if he simply ignored what I wrote, or if a subordinate only relayed an egregiously simplified summary of my letter which then prompted his two-sentence reply.
If Dean Callahan chooses to respond to my polite-but-firm inquiry the same way the Arizona Republic editorial writer Linda Valdez did to an equally sincere inquiry — arguably comparable to what a hard-nosed old-school reporter might ask — then I will add that to this blog as well.
I’ve said it before elsewhere, and I’ll emphasize it again here: Objective, unbiased journalists aren’t the enemy of the people, and I most certainly am not advocating that any news outlet be shuttered. However, biased, propaganda-pushing ‘journalists’ are indeed an existential threat to the well-being of the country because they contribute to the public being not fully informed and needlessly enraged about issues, which under traditional reporting, would only prompt calm, rational discussion of the topic.