What 'Fair and Balanced' Means

Dear Viewers,

Here is some more behind the scenes on our show:  every night I read my viewer e-mail and respond to a good number of them.  What always strikes me are the ones about "fair and balanced."  You have no idea how many e-mails I get about "fair and balanced!"  What is most bizarre is that for a given guest, or a given topic, I will get e-mails criticizing me simultaneously for being too conservative and too liberal.  How can that be? How can I -- or the show -- be  unfair both ways on the same topic on the same night with the same guest?  I don't get it.    

Fair and balanced is not a mathematical formula.  It is also not whether you agree with the guest, or whether you agree with the line of questioning.  It is whether the news gets presented in such a way that a fair minded person can get all the facts and draw the appropriate conclusion based on the facts.  It is also not whether we present two guests with polar opposite opinions.  I believe that viewers are very smart and can listen and draw conclusions about whether a single guest has an axe to grind, or whether the guest in uninformed or half informed.

On very controversial topics we try extremely  hard  -- even up until show time -- to get guests from both or different camps and frequently a camp will elect not to respond.  That might be a red flag to you as it can be to me.  Of course we don't want to censor the topic and not present it to you simply because one side of an issue does not wish to respond.  That would allow one party to make sure you never get any of the facts or views.   On other occasions, we book one guest and I ask the question to draw out the facts -- or opinion -- so that you can then decide.  "Fair and balanced" includes "we report, you decide." In other words, I ask the questions so you can decide -- I am not trying to shovel ideas into you. That is not my job.

You will not agree with all the guests all the time.  That is not what news is all about.  What news is all about in my opinion is a commitment to elicit for you as many facts, and as many opinions so you can reach your own conclusion. We don't have unlimited time and unlimited access to guests, so I assume -- and I am right about this -- the viewer is very intelligent and finds intellectual challenge even with viewpoints that might be different from his or her own.  And one show is not the universe from which you should reach your conclusion whether a program is ultimately a fair one.  You need to step back and ask yourself, over the long run, "is this show committed to getting me the many facts and views so that in the end I can decide?"


Do you have something you'd like to say to Greta? Please write to her at ontherecord@foxnews.com!

Watch On the Record with Greta Van Susteren weeknights at 10 p.m. ET