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This was a pathetic week for journalistic integrity when it comes to this nation's 24-hour networks, even more indication that bias has permeated into what is supposed to be a bastion of un-leaning information.
Tea parties: nothing wrong with them. Absolutely nothing wrong with them. Americans peacefully speaking their mind about an issue that concerns them and calling for change is a constitutional guarantee that is cherished, one my father and millions of others have fought for over the years. In this case, the call is for a stop to what some believe is out of control spending. My job is not to agree or disagree with the parties and the cause, so I won't.
That call for economic change can be traced back to Rick Santelli, CNBC business editor, who is ironically coming to Texas A&M in the coming days to speak at the former president's library event. In his now-famous on-air rant months ago, he called for a tea party in Chicago. It became a nationwide set of events. Estimates have a quarter of a million people turning out on Tax Day.
If a personality from CNBC, a business news network, was the genesis of the idea, Fox News picked up the torch. For days, the network basically promoted the April 15th events. Commercials touted FNC's personalities essentially as hosts in major cities. A grassroots effort's flag was picked up by a "fair and balanced" network's team, raised and waved for all the nation to see. For a network which has a news division that studies have shown might be the fairest and most balanced of all on cable, its evening conservative-leaning commentary lineup bled too far deep into news coverage.
It is not the news' job to promote agendas, rather, to report and inform. That statement also should be held to the other two "major" (ratings would have some questioning that word) cable news outlets, CNN and MSNBC (KBTX is a CNN affiliate). Whereas Fox News stepped over the line in my opinion, I don't believe CNN and MSNBC toed it. What I saw was under-reporting of a quarter-million-person movement on a hot-button issue in this nation.
Then, there's the Susan Roesgen incident where the CNN reporter shouted down a tea party attendee (one carrying a baby, no less), clearly displaying bias against the event and its supporters. Maybe one too many protesters shouted down her organization on her way into the building and she got annoyed. Whatever the reason, she will now be defined for the remainder of her career by a moment of incredible credibility loss.
And MSNBC? It's team spent the day making sexual innuendos about the title of the movement. David Schuster, an anchor and correspondent, emptied the barrels of innuendo bazookas on the event and its attendees. Disgusting and embarrassing...plain and simple...nothing more need be said.
What is the state of our national television journalism when this bias permeates our field? One organization promotes, others disparage and ignore. Here's a brainstorm: why not let the event happen without influencing it, and then report about what happened? It's a novel idea, isn't it?
That's what lil' ol' KBTX did with the tea parties. They happened, we told you about them. That's what we've done with the Iraq war protests: no promotion, but the facts when they've happened. Both are legitimate public gatherings connected to national movements (more so on anniversaries of the Iraq war, most notably, the fifth).
I still have respect for a number of the individuals who work at the three cable news organizations, people who I've seen to be strong reporters of unbiased information. But this week, I think there were some massive failures that should serve as a sign that the networks should get back to basics.