TV Network News Biased

Adam Kelly

Editor’s Note: Adam Kelly was a premier editor, writer and publisher in West Virginia. Published in the 1980s, this column echoes to the present times, perhaps resonating much more so in recent days.

She Who Has Charge of Such Matters long ago forbade me to watch television network “news” shows in general and Dan Rather in particular. Not good for crusty editors’ blood pressure, decreed she.

However, that edict did not save me from blowing the old stack last week at a despicable action of the CBS, ABC and NBC news departments. The president of the United States had scheduled a major address to the nation during prime time on Tuesday night, Feb. 3, concerning aid to the Nicaraguan resistance. But most Americans didn’t get to see and hear Mr. Reagan.

The three broadcast networks decided not to cover the speech. Not “newsy” enough, was the official reason given for televising “Matlock,” “Who’s the Boss” and a special about Denver’s Stapleton Airport instead of a speech by the president of the United States.

It was but another demonstration of the consistent leftist bias displayed by our national electronic media. In this instance, and it isn’t the first time this has happened, the three commercial networks substituted their judgment for that of the president concerning what the people of this country should be given an opportunity to hear.

The president’s speech should have been carried. The net effect was the same as if Mikhail Gorbachev and Daniel Ortega had assumed control of the three television networks in order to assist the Sandinistas.

“The decision was the result of the news division’s judgment,” declared CBS Vice President and Washington bureau chief Joe Peyronnin.

And that helps explain what really happened.

For, nowadays network political coverage is being shaped by producers and reporters with remarkably close ties to leading Democratic politicians. Remember plagiarist Joe Biden of Delaware and his abortive run for the presidency? The Delaware liberal’s top campaign aide was Thomas Donilon.

And the Brother Donilon is now gainfully employed by the CBS News to “advise” its political reporters and editors. The CBS political editor is Dotty Lynch, whose previous experience includes working as a pollster in the 1980 Edward Kennedy campaign and the 1984 primary campaign of Gary Hart.

Remember “Lonesome George” McGovern, the leftist whom Americans so decisively rejected for their president in 1972? His press secretary was a chap named Jeff Grainick. And Brother Gralnick is now one of the hired hands at ABC News, working as a producer of political news coverage.

This network has two on camera political analysts working with Gralnick. One was the manager for Walter Mondale’s (remember him?) 1984 campaign. The other is a former speechwriter for the late Sen. Robert Kennedy.

The NBC Nightly News supervisor is Tim Russert, who was New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s chief media strategist. The Chief political correspondent for NBC is Ken Bode, one time political editor for The New Republic and an aide to Arizona Democrat “Mo” Udall in his 1976 bid for the presidency.

As the director of the Media Research Center, L. Brent Bozell points out. “Those who watch the media coverage of politics should do so with the knowledge that what they are receiving is a one sided presentation of a leftist agenda.” He notes that liberal commentators, analysts and consultants tend to dominate network newscasts because the news executives all tend to come from the same ideological circles.

S. Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, expressed the same opinion when he noted that “Democrats” fit more into the political culture of the newsroom than “Republicans.”

In this connection, the Lichters, S. Robert and Linda S., provided documented proof that the media tried its best to turn the Iran Contra issue into a club to use against President Reagan, failing because of a magnificent display of poise and courage from a Marine named Oliver North.

As the Lichters put it, “The networks came to bury the White House cowboys but left praising the charismatic colonel.” The Lichters analyzed 462 stories on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news shows throughout the public Iran-initiative hearings, lasting from May 5 to Aug. 3. They found that only one story in 11 addressed substantive policy issues. Most stories dealt with investigative details, legal issues or President Reagan’s leadership. CBS has the most critical coverage, with 59 percent negative judgments. Reporters on air judgments contained four times as much blame as praise (79 percent to 21 percent.)

The Lichter analysis depicts a dramatic turnaround in television coverage of the hearings, a change engineered by Lt. Col. North.

Before he took the stand, 92 percent of the reporters comments concerning North were critical.

After North’s testimony, 63 percent of the comments were favorable and the focus of the story shifted away from the “scandal” framework that had previously structured Iran-Contra coverage.

However, as has now become painfully apparent, once again the liberal newsroom activists in the broadcast networks are letting their ideological bias show in what stories are covered and how they’re handled. Under these circumstances, it’s just as well that this old editor has been forbidden to watch the nightly “news” shows put on by Rather, Donaldson, Brokaw et al. When you have to look twice in order to tell the difference between the evening news and a Democrat political commercial, it’s best not to look at all.

Staff writer Miles Layton can be reached at mlayton@ncweeklies.com