Why Media Credibility Is Down The Tubes

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and editorial columnist Rich Lowry tried their best Sunday to present the conservative view of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the nation’s health care law. However, the deck was stacked against them when they appeared on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.”

Unlike some folks, I don’t spend my waking hours moaning and groaning about “the liberal media.” But sometimes the bias is so blatant, you can’t help but decry the state of news reporting in today’s world.

Media credibility is at an all-time low in this country, and those of us in the business know one of the major reasons why. Stiff competition among the major television and cable news networks has blurred the line between legitimate news reporting and commentary and opinion.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the competition between MSNBCTV and Fox News. Actually, it’s unfair to judge them equally because MSNBC doesn’t even try to hide its extremely liberal agenda.

Many of us became spoiled watching “Meet the Press” when the late Tim Russert was the moderator. Russert had no equal when it came to dishing out the tough questions to any who appeared on his program, whatever their political persuasion. And he always strived for balance.

David Gregory is the new moderator of “Meet the Press.” And in the immortal words of former U.S Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Gregory is no Tim Russert.

The program opened with a oneon-one exchange between Gregory and House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a liberal’s liberal. Gregory did ask Pelosi some tough questions, but there was little counterbalance to her remarks. The stage was all hers.

Pelosi called Republicans the mouthpiece for the health insurance industry, and emphatically declared repeal of health care is unrealistic. She was probably right when she said persons benefiting from Obamacare will oppose repeal, but to say “everybody will have lower rates, better quality care and better access” is a tremendous stretch.

Jindal was paired with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who is also past chairman of the Democratic National Committee. With a couple of exceptions, Jindal held his own. However, it was difficult to reply to Dean’s statement that Obamacare will give 340,000 of Louisiana’s 860,000 uninsured citizens coverage under Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor. Jindal has said he won’t support expansion of the Medicaid program because of future costs.

“Now, look, I do agree we need to reform the health insurance marketplace,” Jindal said. “I do agree the status quo’s not acceptable. I just don’t think this expensive, unsustainable entitlement program is the solution to our problems.”

The health care issue is a tough one for Republicans since Mitt Romney, the presumed GOP presidential nominee, enacted a similar program when he was governor of Massachusetts. Gregory played an old tape of Romney when he said the requirement that everyone in his state should have to buy insurance was a good compromise.

Jindal’s reply may have been his best of the day. He said Romney had always been against the national mandate, but states should be free to make their own policy choices. His flub came when he used Mardi Gras as an example. He said the celebration is great for Louisiana but may not work in Vermont or other states.

“You’re really comparing Mardi Gras to universal health insurance?” Gregory asked.

Lowry, the editor of National Review, a conservative news magazine, had it worse. He was outnumbered by Gregory; Chuck Todd, the chief White House correspondent and political news director for NBC News; Eugene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post and frequent guest on MSNBC; and Savannah Guthrie, co-host of NBC’s “Today Show” and a network attorney.

Todd and Robinson were especially quick to jump Lowry every time he tried to make a point. Those of you who read his column in the American Press know he isn’t a wild-eyed conservative but a reasonable writer who makes a lot of sense.

The Times-Picayune wrote a balanced account of Jindal’s appearance on “Meet the Press.” However, a Washington Post blogger made sure her readers got a complete summary of not only his Sunday miscues, but some from the past as well.

The bias that was so obvious Sunday on “Meet the Press” comes on the heels of an hour NBC’s Brian Williams devoted to President Obama’s role in the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden. The “Rock Center” special was one of the most effective Obama promotions we will see between now and the Nov. 6 presidential election.

This is one of those occasions when you wish the Fairness Doctrine calling for equal time for political candidates was still in effect.

TV news and cable networks aren’t the only guilty parties. Some national newspapers have their biases as well, but most try to separate fact from opinion.

Credibility is the one trait that defines newsmen and women as trustworthy individuals and the institutions for which they work as purveyors of the truth. And when television and cable news networks, newspapers and other forms of media lose their credibility, all of us in the industry suffer.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected]



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