12/05/04 — News news: Will networks see the light and eschew liberal bias?

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News news: Will networks see the light and eschew liberal bias?

The days of the Big Three evening news shows on television are over.

Time was, ABC, CBS and NBC had only one another to worry about. Competition between them was brisk because the ratings were important not just to the networks but also to their local affiliate stations.

Still, it has been many years since any of these shows were as informative as they could have been, just as most local TV news shows are weak — too little substance, too much feel-good blabber. Television news is not presented to us according to its importance.

But that is not the primary reason for the diminishing of the Big Three. Mainly it was caused by the emergence of 24-hour news channels on cable, like Fox News, MSNBC and the pioneer, CNN. This has diffused the audience.

In addition, there has been an increasing awareness that Dan Rather of CBS, Peter Jennings of ABC and, to a lesser extent, Tom Brokaw of NBC were feeding us news that was flavored with a liberal bias.

Several things have happened in recent weeks that have helped to drive home that fact. Not the least of them was Rather’s use during the presidential campaign of unverified documents to misrepresent President Bush’s Air National Guard service.

Rather has committed other offenses that demonstrate his leftward bent. An astute viewer can detect similar leanings in Jennings’ and Brokaw’s programs.

Fox News has now taken the lead in ratings among the television news outfits. Fox claims to be “fair and balanced,” but it too seems prejudiced — except in the opposite direction, toward the right.

Rather and Brokaw have decided to retire, giving their networks an opportunity to try something fresh and different, and they should. They should not begin favoring the conservative viewpoint like Fox, but they should make a clearly obvious attempt to report objectively.

Apparently, though, they won’t, at least not NBC. While CBS has not officially announced its plans, NBC seems to be content with the same old liberal slant, because it has named Brian Williams to replace Brokaw.

Williams often comes across as one of those America-hating liberals. He once indicated in an interview that the United States’ “military swagger” was partly responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

When the U.S.-led coalition began bombing Baghdad last year, Williams compared it to the Allied bombing of Dresden and Tokyo in World War II. He didn’t mention the enemy’s bombing of any Allied cities, like London. He also didn’t mention that today’s weapons are far more discriminating — enabling us to pinpoint specific military targets — than the bombs used in World War II.

Covering the White House during the Clinton years, he was an unabashed admirer of Clinton.

And so on.

It does not appear that NBC has learned that making a left-leaning liberal its primary news announcer is imprudent. Any return to basic, neutral news reporting apparently is off in the future.

Published in Editorials on December 5, 2004 12:06 AM