A Thank You for Thank You Notes

People who write Internet columns don’t usually write thank-you notes. But I intend to do that this week.

People don’t usually write thank-you notes in response to thank-you notes. I intend to do that, too.

The highest-rated television show of the week beginning Feb. 3, 2003 was the Michael Jackson interview that infected two hours of prime-time on Thursday. It was, in fact, one of the highest-rated shows of the entire year, with an estimated 27 million Americans tuning in.

I was not one of them, in part because I believe there is a principle involved here, one that I have stated before in this column. Television, like politics, is a democracy. Men and women vote for their programming choices no less than they vote for their favorite candidates. It is the responsibility of viewers with good taste and high standards not to vote for Michael Jackson by listening to him prattle or watching his nose fall off -- as perversely appealing as the latter may be. Only by ignoring such indecencies can we persuade television executives not to show them.

But, as long as we vote in favor of those indecencies, they will continue to run, as, in a democracy, they should. Candidate Michael Jackson won in a landslide a couple of Thursdays ago. The people have spoken.

Fortunately, though, some other people have also spoken.

On last week’s edition of Fox News Watch, I made a comment to the effect that we had originally planned a discussion of the Jackson interview--to which I facetiously referred as the "really big" story of the week--but then decided not to. Why? Because none of us on the panel really cared. It was a throwaway line and, after uttering it, I did not give it a thought. Jane Hall, Neal Gabler, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and I went on with the show.

As things turned out, we got more e-mails about that topic that we did about any other topic on the program--more than we did about Columbia coverage, more than we did about coverage of Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations, more than we did about the newspaper in Nebraska that will no longer refer to Washington, DC’s professional football team as the Redskins.

In other words, you were more appreciative of something we did not say than of anything we did.

Marilou Jones of Toledo, Ohio, sent us a note (which will be read this week on the air) with 40 "thank you’s" in it.

Kathy Werner from Southern Shores, N.C., expressed "one million thanks," then signed off by calling herself "a bigger fan [of the show] than last week."

Janelle Bridges, Levelland, Texas: "Thank you very much for not wasting any of your air time on Michael Jackson."

Bob Milhoan, Bradenton, Fla.: "Thank you for not commenting on this story. I was beginning to think I am the only person in America who does not care about the lifestyles of the androgynous and narcissistic."

Geoff Hawkins, Bethesda, Md.: "I have never actually sent an e-mail while watching a TV program before but your (NON) coverage of Michael Jackson tonight has stirred me to action."

Jim Campbell, Carlsbad, Calif.: "You reach perfection with your coverage (none) of Michael Jackson."

Joyce Dixon, Claxton, Ga.: "Bravo to News Watch for not joining the parade of media shows discussing Michael Jackson’s interview on ABC."

And there were more, many more.

Fox News Watch does not have 27 million viewers. Fox News Watch will never have 27 million viewers. But what I already knew, and what was so resoundingly verified for me in recent days, was that what our viewers lack in numbers they make up for in judgment.

Thank you very much.


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.. ET/8 p.m. PT .

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