Fair and Balanced?

I had a long telephone argument Monday with a friend who is a network news producer, one who works for one of the big three newscasts, Dan, Peter and Tom.

We were arguing about a memo from Mark Halperin (search), the ABC News political director who was giving instructions to producers and reporters on dealing with alleged lies that Bush and Kerry are telling about each other.

In the memo, Halperin states:

"Kerry distorts, takes out of context and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win."

In contrast, Halperin says the Bush campaign is engaging in "renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions."

Halperin concludes:

"As one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest... Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right."

My friend the major network producer saw nothing unusual in all that. I said it displays an obvious bias on the part of news management and contains instructions to producers and reporters to make sure that bias comes through on the air.

My friend refused to see it that way.

I said to this person, this is the reason people don't trust you. You can't even see the bias when it is written in neon and is flashing all night outside your bedroom window.

Now, I've know this network news producer quite a while and I have no reason to think her bias is any worse than any other human. We all have a point of view. On the other hand, I also don't think she realizes it is even there.

The ABC News memo not only shows bias, but it also shows panic. It shows that this one executive at least is desperately trying to make sure his candidate wins, while pretending to be even handed. And, worst of all, trying to bludgeon his reporting staff into doing his dirty work while he remains hidden in the background.

That's My Word.

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