E-mail Improves Connection Between Media, Public

It is appropriate to write about gratitude this week, and no less appropriate to express it to those people who write to me.

Every week I read hundreds of e-mails sent to me personally because of this column, or sent to me a bit more indirectly as the host of Fox News Watch. Without them I would know much less about my business, much less about the effects it has on viewers and readers, and much less about the steps that journalism will have to take if it is to regain the trust of large numbers of wary, even alienated Americans.

Of course, I do not give thanks for all the e-mails I receive. I could do without the ones that call me a right-wing lackey in the service of corporate greed and societal irresponsibility, and I could do without the ones that call me a left-wing stooge who cares about nothing more than destroying the moral fiber and religious foundation of the great nation that allows me to pontificate in so treasonous a manner.

I could also do without the e-mail I got a few weeks ago that called me a dead-ringer for the Sept. 11 terrorist, Mohamed Atta.

But most of the e-mails I get are communications that I would not want to do without. Some express anger at what I have written or what I or one of the Fox News Watch panelists has said on the air; others express agreement or want to add a point or clarify a point or ask a question. These e-mails are, in many cases, thought-provoking; I end up wishing that I had written something differently or said something other than what I said, and vowing that the next time a particular topic comes up, I will present it with a better feeling for the concerns of those who are reading me or listening to what my fellow panelists and I are saying.

I am struck by the intelligence of the e-mails, as well as by the wide range of topics in which people are interested. On this weekend’s Fox News Watch, we will devote the entire 30 minutes to viewer responses, and consider the topics: One person raises the issue of bias in the media against smokers. Another raises the issue of bias in talk radio. Yet another makes a connection between journalistic credibility and the identity of Deep Throat. And still another wonders why the media seem so unwilling to consider the ideas of third party political candidates.

Then there was the guy who wrote in to ask whether everyone on Fox News Channel was an "insensitive nut"? I hope I don’t give too much away by revealing that, on this weekend’s program, I will answer in the negative.

Those of us on Fox News Watch are also struck by the humor of the e-mails. We like to close our weekly e-mail segment with some correspondence in a lighter vein, and are almost always able to do so. Someone will have something amusing to say about Jim Pinkerton’s ties or gesticulating hands, about Jane Hall’s lip gloss or skirt length, about Cal Thomas’s bombast or potential sainthood, about Neal Gabler’s uncompromising positions or the difference in height between Cal and him.

When I started in the television news business, there was no such thing as e-mail. Most viewers did not bother to call, and would not have been put through to journalists even if they did. And most did not bother to write, and those who did take pen to paper found that, by the time the missives had arrived, they had lost a certain immediacy.

But because of the ease and speed of e-mails, all of that has changed. There is more of a connection between those who report the news and those to whom it is reported than ever before. It is for that, in particular, which I give thanks on this weekend when there is so much for Americans to be thankful for.

Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT .

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