Thursday, July 24, 2008

Al Gore's 7/17/08 Climate Crisis Speech


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Hume: Fox News Biased?

The following originally aired on C-SPAN's Q&A on 7/20/08.

To see the full interview and the full transcript see the Brit Hume Interview. The full video can also be found at C-SPAN Video Library (Q & A with Brit Hume)

Q&A Host Brian Lamb interviews Brit Hume. Spot any fallacious thinking? See my specific comments below a little later.

Lamb asks for Hume's reaction to Overholser's claim that Fox practices "ideologically connected journalism." (See the USA Today article "Brit Hume honor triggers protest".)

Hume replies that that this is not unexpected. He then goes on to say "...the truth is that the two things that have annoyed a number of my colleagues about Fox News. One of them is that we were different and pointedly so. And the other was that we succeeded. I think, it would – no one would have paid much attention if we’d failed, but we didn’t. And by the time 2004 rolled around, we were number one in the audience ratings and had been for a couple years."

Lamb asks if Overholser's statement that ”Fox wants to do news from a certain viewpoint” is true. Hume says "Well, if that’s true of us, it’s true of everybody. We’re no more viewpoint connected than any of the other news organizations are.

Lamb points out that other news organizations don't see themselves operate from certain viewpoint. Hume replies: "No, nor do we, judged by their standards. Brian, what it comes down to is this."

Hume then explains that "two parts to Fox News, put broadly. And one is our hard news products. And the other is our evening show hosts and talk shows, which are about the opinions of the host – to a great extent about the opinions of the hosts and stars of those shows.

"Now, a number of our hosts are conservatives, which really, by itself, sets us apart from our competitors, because they have very few conservatives. We have a number. We also have a number of liberals. But it is a striking contrast to the others. And, when you have someone who has been successful as Bill O’Reilly, for example, and is as conspicuous a personality as he is."

"And you have someone who is successful as Sean Hannity has been and who is as visible a figure as he is and outspoken. Never mind the fact, of course, that he’s balanced on that program down to the second by Alan Colmes on Hannity & Colmes. Nonetheless, an impression is created in the minds of some people that don’t watch Fox News very much, that basically Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly co-anchor the channel 24/7 and that’s what we do is their conservative opinions. But that isn’t what we do in my hour. That’s not what we do in the hour that goes to 7:00. That isn’t what we do for a large slice of our daytime programming, where we’re just discussing and reporting the news. So, it’s a bum rap, but it’s out there."

Lamb tries his question again. Lamb asks "Fox wants to do news from a certain viewpoint, but it wants to claim that it is fair and balanced, [Overholser] says. That is inaccurate and unfair to other media who engage in a quest, perhaps an imperfect quest, for objectivity. Hume replies: "Well --"

Perhaps to quickly Lamb goes to his follow-up question. "David Brinkley, Dan Rather, John Chancellor, Jane Pauley, Barbara Walters and Nina Totenberg and others, are they all objective?

Hume stresses: "None of us is objective. You can’t be objective. But what you can try to be is fair. I mean, David Brinkley, as I recall, is one of the first people I ever heard say that. You can’t be objective. You’re a sentient, thinking, human being. You’re going to have views in reaction to things. But I’ll say this about it. I believe that fairness begins with an awareness that no, you’re not objective. And it is your professional duty and responsibility to be aware of that. And to carry that with you into the work that you do so that you can be fair. So, you could screen out. You can be – you can think if you go to a hearing and you think that the politician whose running the hearing is obstreperous personality, whether it’s Phil Graham or Barney Frank, that you think, I got to be careful here, because I don’t particularly cotton to this person. I need to make sure that I play this straight. That I’m fair. I think that’s where it begins. I’ve always thought that. And it’s not that hard to do. I mean, think of the people in the professions that we – other professions that we – in the practice of law. Lawyers represent clients they disagree with. They even represent viewpoints they disagree with. They do it all the time. And they do a good job of it, because they’re professionally trained to do it. We as journalists are or should be professionally trained to do that as well. To go out and assess a story based on its news value and to order it and prioritize what we see in such a way as to reflect news values and report it that way."

Lamb finishes up in this line of questioning with: "Did Roger Ailes ever say to you in a conversation, we’re going to use this fair and balanced slogan and it’s going to drive them crazy?"

Hume: "It does drive them crazy. Now look, Brian, the examples I cited to you earlier – the earlier example of that story is a meaningful example is the kind of thing that where we see opportunity where others see nothing. Now, can anyone, Geneva Overholser or anyone else seriously argue to me than when a report comes out from an administration that a year ago said that progress – satisfactory progress was being made on half of these political benchmarks, which had been so much at the center of the debate. And a year later comes along and reports more than twice as much. That that isn’t news. Of course, it’s news by any reasonable, fair-minded standard. Our colleagues neglect such stories with some regularity, providing us a competitive opportunity. We pickup on stories like this. Now, we’re perfectly willing to report that somebody said that the benchmarks are not – they’re not being met. They’re simply reporting progress. They don’t mean that much. All of that is part of the fabric of the reporting on it. But it is news. And we do a lot of that. Now, one might argue that, gee, if we weren’t conservative in outlook, we wouldn’t think that way. Well, maybe. On the other hand, if that’s true, then what’s true on the other side."

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