Celebrity Reporters?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Seeing is apparently believing when it comes to defining journalism in America. A new study shows that the public has a different perception of who is a journalist than those actually in the business.

And who can blame them when actors like Sean Penn (search) take on the role of reporter? He is on assignment for The San Francisco Chronicle in Iran, just ahead of Iran's presidential elections.

Joining us now to talk about it is Eric Burns, host of "FOX News Watch." So, put this full screen up there, Eric, so people can see the result.

ERIC BURNS, HOST, "FOX NEWS WATCH": I can't put it up, John. That's got to be your control room people.


GIBSON: And I'm doing that, as you can see.

BURNS: All right.

GIBSON: Seventy-nine percent said Peter Jennings (search) is one. Only 19 percent said George Will is one and, in between, some pretty famous names.

BURNS: This is the dumbest survey I've seen in months. I don't know what it's supposed to prove — that people don't know what a journalist is, that the definitions are changing? Is journalist a pejorative term today, John?

You know, people don't seem to like journalists very much. So maybe by Peter Jennings getting 79 percent, people are saying, "We don't trust Jennings at all because he's a journalist." I have no idea what they're trying to do...


GIBSON: By that reasoning, when 40 percent say Bill O'Reilly (search) is, 60 percent obviously think higher of him than...

BURNS: Well, if that reasoning is correct. But that's one of the problems with this survey. I don't know.

Look, essentially, if you take away people who present news without thinking, which is to say a lot of local news anchors, you have basically three kinds of journalists. You have people like you, who elicit news by interviewing. You have people who present opinions, either by writing or by speaking. And you have people who present facts, either by writing or by speaking.

If you are in one of those three categories — no matter what a poll like that says — you're a journalist.


BURNS: I understand rating these people on the basis of how good you think they are, but they're all journalists.

GIBSON: But does it make sense to think that, really, that list reflects who's famous and who's not? Peter Jennings is up at the top. George Will (search) is at the bottom. I'd say that Jennings is way more famous than George Will.

BURNS: Yes, but where is Rush Limbaugh (search)? He is at 27 percent, so he has to be fairly near the bottom. Now, isn't he almost as famous as Jennings?

GIBSON: He is as famous.

BURNS: So see, both of us here, in trying to analyze this, whatever we say, we're going to find a flaw, because this is very hard to...


GIBSON: But Limbaugh might be one who would deny being a journalist, who would disavow.

BURNS: You know, I read a quote of his. And he seemed to be very untroubled by the findings. So maybe he has, at least mentally, already begun to disavow the findings.

GIBSON: Does it say anything, though, about how the public regards the news business or the so-called journalism business?

BURNS: No. But a lot of other findings do.

As you know, people don't like us these days. Another very recent poll has shown that we rank lower today than we ever have, and this is a poll that goes back a few weeks earlier — anonymous sources, our use thereof, that makes people more upset with us than anything else.

This poll, I don't think it tells us anything. Maybe you're right, John. Maybe it tells us how well known people are. But, you know, they gave the respondents, I think, a list of 10 names. I'd like to know why they chose the 10 names they chose. Why isn't Brian Williams (search) there? Peter Jennings is not in his anchor chair right now. It's just very strange.

GIBSON: Eric Burns, host of "FOX News Watch." And I don't know about you, but I call myself a reporter, instead of a journalist. The J. word always bothered me.

Eric, thanks. See you later.

BURNS: Very similar occupations, John.

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