The following is a transcription of the January 1, 2005 edition of "FOX News Watch," that has been edited for clarity:
ERIC BURNS, HOST: This year on "FOX News Watch," we've covered a lot of coverage, some of it tragic, some of it divisive, some of it so ridiculous that we don't want to cover it again. We covered the war in Iraq, the death of a president, scandal in the media.
Today we look back at the highs, the lows and the few mediums. First the headlines, then a special edition of "FOX News Watch."
BURNS: Happy New Year everyone. Here to see to it that I don't get to talk any more in 2005 than I did in 2004, our Jim Pinkerton of Newsday, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, Jane Hall of the American University and media writer Neal Gabler. I'm Eric Burns. "FOX News Watch" is coming right up.
We have some awards to present today for news coverage in 2004. Here is the first annual and perhaps last ever Neal Gabler award for laziness in reporting — Neal.
NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: It's much easier to name the handful of hard-working reporters than it is to name the thousands of lazy ones. However...
BURNS: You'd like the extra time because you're going to do it anyhow.
GABLER: The poster child, the representative for all of those lazy journalists is Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times and I'll tell you why, because her coverage of John Kerry during this election was perilously close to being self parody. I mean she talked about Kerry's butler. She talked about Kerry's home. She talked actually how much Kerry spent on a haircut and how much he spent on.
BURNS: So had to go to the barbershop, do the research, go to the restaurant, get the receipt and you call her lazy.
GABLER: A lot of policy issues there that she was analyzing.
BURNS: Anybody else have some nominations?
JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: I have the reporters who covered Bernard Kerik's nomination for homeland security, led by Zeb Chafis (ph) in the New York Daily News, and he wrote a column with this headline, "Kerik's Got a Big Future." After homeland security, Senate may beckon home boy Bernie. Kerik may be president of San Quentin before he gets to be senator from New Jersey.
BURNS: Jane, choice of your own?
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think all the political reporters who first missed Howard Dean, then discovered the Internet, then looked at how much he'd raised and said he was going to win in Iowa and also the people, the same people who declared John Kerry dead, the same people who group think how much he raised, didn't get the Internet and they all said the same thing wrong many times.
PINKERTON: If John Kerry had lived.
HALL: He didn't live ultimately, but he lived to get the nomination.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: My nomination goes to Peter Jennings for his hard-hitting questioning of Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards on an ABC World News Tonight July 7th broadcast. Here were Jennings hard-hitting penetrating questions. What were you like as a kid? Was there ever any doubt about you going to college, even though neither of your parents did? Tell me about your wife. When did you meet her? Why did you want to be a lawyer?
BURNS: Is that laziness or the thought in the back of the head that Oprah's going to give up her show someday and someone else is going.
THOMAS: . the question about, as a trial lawyer, if you win this election, is anyone safe from a lawsuit? I think that would have been a much better question.
PINKERTON: There's also laziness. There's also ideological support and I think the Jennings questions show a sort of softball instinct towards the Democratic Party.
BURNS: Toward the Democratic Party or toward news interviewing? I mean Neal, the political candidates, the presidential candidates are going on a lot of softball shows. They're going on Larry King. They're going on entertainment shows. Maybe the journalists, the hard-hitting journalists are trying to compete by being softer hitting.
GABLER: If there are any hard-hitting journalists. I mean let's face it, you've got hundreds of journalists following Bush and following Kerry and they only did it for two reasons, because they give the same speech every single place they go. Either he's going to make a mistake or he's going to be assassinated. Couldn't you redeploy those reporters to actually do some analysis instead of wasting all of those man and woman hours on nothing?
BURNS: I think that's a great point.
HALL: Well, the other thing that's true is the Bush administration has offered very little access to Bush, so that when Bush is questioned, he gets those say, how does it wake up to be the most wonderful person in the world questions.
PINKERTON: Two hard-hitting reporters, interviewers, Tim Russert, Brit Hume.
BURNS: Let's go now to our next award as we look back at the performance of journalists in 2004. It's the Cal Thomas frequent flyer award, presented to the reporter or reporters who most need a trip to the red states. Cal, they are.
THOMAS: October 14th, CBS morning show, which almost nobody watches but a few do anyway. Renee Siler (ph) said let's start with this CBS poll of uncommitted voters, 39 percent said they thought Kerry won the debate, 25 percent said they thought the president won and 36 percent thought it was a dead heat and then CBS political analyst Craig Crawford says, Renee, even before these polls came out, you could feel the presidency slipping away from George Bush. It would surprise me.
BURNS: Here's a guy with great instincts that he could feel that even without any information and you're criticizing him.
THOMAS: Clearly he didn't know what was happening in the red states, couldn't see all of those voters that Karl Rove was registering in churches and bowling alleys and American Legion halls and VFW halls all across America. This was one of the great unreported stories of the election. Rove and his people were out there registering all of these red state voters and the big media couldn't even see it.
HALL: I agree with Cal on that I would like to say that everybody should go to the red states. I think Peter Jennings should anchor ABC World News Tonight from there sometime. I think that you would find, since I am from a red state and go back there frequently, the American people are not - I mean I have friends in New York who feel that this is the end of the world, that they - one half of the country is out to get the other half of the country. I think the media are at fault if they don't realize that there's a range of opinion even in red states. They ought to get out there and talk to people.
GABLER: I couldn't disagree more. I think this dichotomy, this false dichotomy.
GABLER: OK. I mean this is a false dichotomy between red and blue. It's one that I -
HALL: You're agreeing with me then.
GABLER: No, I think the dichotomy is ridiculous. You were talking only about the red states, there's some diverse opinion.
HALL: No, I'm saying the country is not polarized.
GABLER: Yes, I don't think the country is as polarized as I think the media have made it out to be and I think that's another kind of laziness, to impose, to a taste (ph) on the situation, this kind of false analysis, this easy analysis. Rather than digging deep into this country and finding out what really is going on.
BURNS: In other words, you're saying there are a lot of shades of color between blue and red and the media ought to be looking for those nuances.
GABLER: With apologies to the teletubbies (search), this is a purple nation, not a red and blue nation.
PINKERTON: There are other kinds of — I'm not quite sure I agree with Neal, but let me make my own point since it's my little moment here. There's another kind of polarization which is elites versus everybody else and I think if the elite reporters on both the ideological right and the ideological left ought to go out to America and see the immigration issue. The right looks at it as a pro-business issue, more workers, more economic growth and more employees for Wal-Mart. The left looks at it as a compassion, multi-cultural issue. In ordinary America, I think the polls and Congressman Tom Tancredo's success in the media as a spokesman for this, see it as a national survival issue, as a heartland fabric of the country issue and I think that perspective is grossly underscored by both the elite right and the elite left.
THOMAS: To return to a point I made in last week's show, controversy sells. It sells products if it's a television show. It sells newspapers and it sells politics. The great evil that particularly the politicians want to avoid is the lackluster voter, the people who had no opinion and want to stay home. You've got to get them riled up to get viewers, to buy newspapers and to turn out voters.
BURNS: We have to take a break. We'll be back with presentations from Jim and Jane.
BURNS: Welcome back to our look back at 2004. Time now for "The Jane Hall Shame in Punditry Award" which goes to the worst performance by a media opinion giver in the year just past. That's a nice picture of you. Let's just — I'm sorry.
HALL: Why thank you. I would like to award this to Robert Novak— the gift that keeps on giving— for 2004, this is actually serious. This is a man who started something and it just continued. Matt Cooper (search) of Time magazine, Judith Miller (search) of the "New York Times" said almost nothing to do, did not even really write directly about this whole outing of the CIA operatives. The whole story, the Bush administration, he had said someone in the Bush administration gave him this name and he put it out there and there's now an investigation that is bound to lead to no good for the press. It's probably going to go on and on and on and I haven't heard very much from him about this. Other people are taking the rap as far as I can tell.
BURNS: He has said very little in his defense ever since this began.
THOMAS: Well, I agree with Jane and I think there needs to be a — some kind of working out of the law. The First Amendment reporter sources, this is very dangerous. We start sending reporters to jail for things that have nothing to do with depriving people of life, limb or property. We're not talking about a murder case here and we're talking about somebody as we've said on the show before, this Valerie Plame (search) woman who was known as a CIA operative around Washington, people just reported the obvious. I don't like this trend. I think it's bad for journalism.
PINKERTON: First a ringing defense of the First Amendment with Jane and Cal. Second, we've descended to the wrestling match here and I think that my nominee for worst pundit performance is Tucker Carlson (search).
BURNS: On CNN's Crossfire.
PINKERTON: Maybe also PBS and MSNBC. I mean, nothing succeeds like failure.
BURNS: He kept saying the same stuff everywhere.
PINKERTON: Exactly, smugness without gravitas, upward mobility without ratings. There's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all this argument shows between sincere discussion and schlock. Crossfire crossed that line a long time ago and the proof came when they put Jon Stewart on and Jon Stewart made fools of both Carlson and Paul Begala, who's not even a pundit. — He's just a political shill for the Democrats. And then to prove that it wasn't just an accident, they then brought on a little bit while later, Triumph the Insult Dog, from the Conan O'Brien Show, just to make it hammer home, this [show] is total crap and you're an idiot to watch.
GABLER: Worthy choices all, and I have to say...
THOMAS: The Crap News Network, that's a new thing for them, yes.
GABLER: These are all worthy choices. I have to say, it was a toss up for me. Do I take the irresponsible or do I take the craven? The irresponsible is Robert Novak, who, we don't need a law. Robert Novak should have been fired immediately by the Chicago Sun-Times syndicate. He should not be writing and that's not the worst of his offenses. There are many, many others. But on the craven side, you had David Brooks, the most ubiquitous conservative in the world who has never found a Republican spin point that he doesn't like to recite.
THOMAS: You mean unlike Paul Krugman on the Democrat side?
GABLER: Paul Krugman (search) creates the spin.
HALL: Can I do a best?
BURNS: Yeah, let's do a best.
HALL: Let me try, let's reward some good behavior in the media here. I would say the best would be Chris Matthews and Zell Miller.
HALL: Yes, Chris Matthews questioning Zell Miller, probably got him the job on this network as an analyst. I think that pundits too rarely really ask questions with the exception of Tim Russert and a few other people. That was a great theatrical moment where he was asking Miller about the speech that he gave. Most people when he came off the air, with the exception of some people on CNN, didn't know what to do with the Miller speech and didn't ask him about some of the very incendiary things he had said and Matthews did and I give him points for that.
THOMAS: The amazing thing to me is that FOX News Channel continues to do well in the ratings and attracting more than just the typical predictable demographic and the other networks haven't gotten it yet and I don't think they will get it in 2005.
BURNS: It's the network on which you have two shows. That's very well said. Would you like to plug the other one? Could be a factor. Our next award, this one, the Jim Pinkerton batteries not included award presented to honor the contributions of technology to news gathering. Let me just say before you start that I'm pretty illiterate about matters like this, so whatever you're going to say now, say it in a way that I can understand.
BURNS: Golb backwards?! — It was the year of the blog?
PINKERTON: Eric, I'll talk to you about it after the show — but for the rest of the audience, look, the big technological revolution, I'm mean we've talked about this on the show many times in 2004 and I think it will continue in 2005, is the blogs. I think Jeff Jarvis of, a leading blogger. —He's actually a former writer for TV Guide and he made the point that the future of journalism in this technological era, is not so much a lecture as a conversation.
BURNS: Which is both good and bad.
PINKERTON: It's both good and bad, exactly. It just changes the dynamic that's going to force reporters, force everybody to listen to their audience more, to get back to their audience, and then frankly, remember, it's not like the audience is always correct. It's not like the blogger is always correct. The truth seeking function will continue after the items runs.
GABLER: I've said this also on the show many times, the bloggers set the agenda for much of the coverage here. They compelled the mainstream media to do things that the mainstream media otherwise would not do, which is to fact check themselves and I would — when you're talking about the best pundits, let me just single out two bloggers who I think are outstanding. They're known to many I think of our viewers. Joshua Micah Marshall and Talking Points Memo, who's a hard-working journalist, and also one of the best sites in media analysis, the Daily Howler, dailyhowler.com with Bob Somerby.
THOMAS: Well, I think that Google certainly has been a tremendous boon to people doing research, but the big thing about the bloggers and Google and so many of these other Internet sites is that the walls of the castle are down now. The moat is dry. The gates are down. You can get in, but we the people, has never had more resonance, particularly as it relates to the media than it does now. Thirty, 40 years ago you had the three broadcast networks. You had the major newspapers. People had to ingest what they were given. They don't have to do that any more and that is empowering for all of us.
HALL: Well, I think there's a danger of romanticizing the blogs. I think that this was the big story out of the political conventions. I share the view here, but there's a lot of bad stuff out there. Let's not say that they're all saints. A lot of them are very partisan. A lot of them are going after good mainstream reporters for partisan reasons. I want to make a different point though about photography. I think that some of the most interesting developments have been the use of still photography on the Internet, in the New York Times. I mean some of the photographs out of Fallujah with these soldiers, you really felt, the way they depicted it, you could feel almost the incoming fire that they were up against. Some of these things have been terrible. You've shown in many ways some terrible deaths. They were all over the front page. But I think that is, something about the power of a still and freezing the moment.
BURNS: Still photo at the right moment.
BURNS: Jim, almost out of time, do you have a final point?
PINKERTON: We shouldn't romanticize the bloggers. We should celebrate the diversity of information and the widespread marketplace and hats off to Google for putting all the university books online for free. It's the recreation of the Alexander library. It's one of the great events of this century.
BURNS: Which is going to take how much longer to have?
PINKERTON: Well, they're doing I think Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford, the next little bit and then they'll be doing more and more as time goes by. And others will join in too.
BURNS: We have to take one more break. We'll be back to talk about the year ahead in journalism.
BURNS: Now the most dangerous part of this show of being a pundit. Cal, I mean anybody can review what did happen. Time now to talk about what's going to happen, what can we expect from journalist in 2005?
THOMAS: Politically I think you're going to see a lot of negative stories about the Bush administration. There's going to be controversy not only surrounding the war. You saw some of that the end of 2004 with a USA Today, CNN, Gallup poll and how many people didn't like Donald Rumsfeld. How many people know anything about Donald Rumsfeld? These stupid polls don't mean anything half the time. But you're going to see charges by the Democrats about corruption in the Bush administration, maybe some will have some basis to them. Maybe others won't, probably a lot won't because they have to sometimes manufacture news, manufacture controversy, the last thing they want is a successful administration because that will make the way easier for a Republican in 2008.
BURNS: But the longer this war goes on Neal, it seems to me the more likely it is and perhaps with justification, the more likely it is that reporters are going to look at it negatively, even more negatively as it endures.
GABLER: Well, I mean that ordinarily happens to any administration in its second term. I mean whether it's a war or domestic policy or anything else, I mean generally you're going to get more negative coverage because they don't have the same kind of leverage over the journalists that they had in the first term.
BURNS: Sequels never do as well.
GABLER: Sequels never do as well. They do like 75 percent I think is the rule of thumb.
PINKERTON: I think now the difference between this presidency and any one that I can remember in my lifetime has been the rise of a substantially conservative, if you will, red state press. It is not just the networks versus human events. It's now big media organs on both sides duking it out. I think that there's a natural polarization that comes from this, a red blue, red getting redder, blue getting bluer.
BURNS: . which is good because it's a conflict of ideas or.
PINKERTON: I thought you were asking what the trends were. I mean is it good or bad?
BURNS: Well, don't be carping at me because I wanted you to give an opinion about the trend.
PINKERTON: As a believer in battling out in the marketplace of ideas, I think it's good.
BURNS: So more press diversity.
PINKERTON: More press controversy plus the blogs catching each other in errors more often.
HALL: I think the war in Iraq is going to be a huge story. I mean I do not wish for there to be more bad news, but it continues to be a story that I think the American people are divided on the media are probably going to - the media are probably going to take some criticism for continuing to report the bad news, although I thought it was very interesting that when that reporter helped that soldier ask the question about body armor, that seems to have put that on the national agenda and Rumsfeld has been criticized. That started something. I think there are going to be more stories like that with the soldiers themselves and their families who are going back. I mean you're going to have I think something more like Vietnam than we've seen here.
GABLER: But on a macro level I think what we're going to continue to see is a flow of authority from the mainstream press to more alternative kinds of press like the blogs and I think and we were also seeing, this may be the biggest story of all, although it's a kind of geological one is a continued decline of the sense of the news as a public trust and we've seen this again and again and again.
BURNS: Put that a different way.
GABLER: A different way is I think we're seeing increasingly partisanship and demagoguery among our mainstream news providers. They don't see themselves as serving the same kind of public function in the public interest as I think they did a generation ago.
PINKERTON: I agree with that. In a world of layoffs and downsizing for reporters, it's a paradox. There's more journalism schools. It seems like every reporter gets laid off, goes around to journalism school and become a professor.
BURNS: Who are they teaching?
PINKERTON: I mean it's the world now is much more free form and the notion, that sort of progressive idea. You go to journalism school, become a quote expert in journalism without a lot of content by the way, simply know the process of journalism as opposed to the actual substance of whether it's politics or economics or science. I think that is collapsing and frankly good riddance.
THOMAS: I think there's going to be more reliance on Hollywood to tell the news than on the traditional news organs. Look at "Hotel Rwanda (search)" for example, an important film, but not as important as it would have been if journalists had dug into this genocide in the first place. Even Bill Clinton acknowledged that he should have paid more attention to it. But look, politicians are driven by what is covered as well. It's not just one.
BURNS: And on the more pop level, there's Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which is a kind of news.
THOMAS: And Oliver Stone (search) and more of his, whatever he is. You can't call them documentaries, but more and more, less and less real news, less networks open bureaus, closing more of them, more emphasis on the bottom line that people are going to get less information than they need to make decisions.
HALL: I wish that we would see more reporting of the federal agencies. I think a lot of places are cutting back on Washington, a lot of newspapers are cutting back and first of all, I don't teach journalism the way Jim described it and nor do my colleagues so I want to make that point. The FDA, all these stories that have come out, that is a public trust. That is, now that took a whistleblower regrettably in many ways. It wasn't that the Washington Post and initially - but the Washington Post has been all over that. They are peoples' lives have been helped by exposing that. That's old fashioned shoe leather journalism.
PINKERTON: The FDA case, Dr. Graham, the whistleblower was not a journalist. He was an FDA
PINKERTON: . that did it. It's a whistleblower did it. Look, the media now.
HALL: . should have been uncovered earlier.
PINKERTON: Maybe so, but it wasn't.
BURNS: Couldn't the whistleblower have shoe leather?
HALL: The Washington Post has followed that Jim.
PINKERTON: The whistleblower had content. He knew what he was talking about. He therefore is the expert and then the journalists.
BURNS: Don't hold your breath.
HALL: . report on that agency or the EPA, it's not going to get covered.
BURNS: That's all the time we have left for this week. Next week, we will be reading your e-mails again so we ask you to write to us again. The address is email@example.com. Please tell us your full name and let us know where you live. Thank you Jane Hall and Jim Pinkerton, don't be mad at me because I had to interrupt you Jane and thank you Cal Thomas and Neal Gabler. And I'm Eric Burns, thanking you for starting yet another year by tuning into us. Hope it's a happy year for you. We'll all see you next week.
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then ahead to 2005 and when we'll all wish you the happiest of new years.