The Passing of a Broadcast Legend — An Opportunity for Truth

The death of Tim Russert hit most people who work in the news media, or pay attention to the news, hard. His life was celebrated, not just on NBC where the affable host of Meet the Press hung his hat, but on all networks and news outlets.


Because Russert was a consummate professional. Though he came to broadcast journalism late in life, he understood the job and took his position seriously. His subjects understood that when they sat down for an interview with Russert, he was informed on every aspect of their life amd every position they had championed. They knew his questions would be hard, direct and fair. They also knew that when Russert asked a question, he expected an answer and would persist until he got one.

Viewers knew that when they watched Meet the Press, they would learn something. Russert’s own views were irrelevant. When his subjects were called in to discuss an issue, he would raise all the important points of the opposing side. If someone gave out questionable information, Russert would call them on it. It was never personal. He was a genuinely nice guy who was as beloved as he was admired.

Russert’s untimely passing has journalists everywhere reexamining their own work product. How do they measure up? How will they be remembered? This is a wake-up call for conservatives, who have come to accept the liberal bias of the news media as a thing that must be tolerated.

There was nothing magic about what Russert did. It was basic Journalism 101. It’s just that the standards have been relaxed to the point that today, most journalists will print or report anything that suits their fancy without question. Balance is having a least one quote from each side which may or may not be true or relevant. Often what passes as news is nothing but thinly veiled advocacy.

When is the last time you wrote or called a journalist, editor, reporter, news director or producer? Most people never do. They just complain about bias in the media but will not lift a finger or flip the lid on a cell phone to do anything about it.

Most journalists want to be considered “good” journalists. Having spent the lion’s share of my professional life in a newsroom, I can tell you that we are extremely sensitive to legitimate criticism. However, we get very little of it.

Also, broadcast licenses are considered a public trust. Licenses have to be renewed. Therefore, television and radio stations log caller comments — both positive and negative — and they are passed around for station mangers, news directors, reporters, anchors and program hosts to read. Those positive comments encourage us to keep doing what we are doing — we live for those things! However, the negative ones are taken very seriously.

Many years ago, I read that a television network considers that each caller represents the views of 10,000 viewers, so few will pick up the phone.

When making a call, the important thing to remember is this: Be courteous. Make your complain or comment short and specific. Whenever possible, include, the date, time, program or article, reporter, etc. and what was wrong, slanted or unbalanced about the piece.

Want to have even more of an impact? Persuade 10 of your friends to make a call or write a letter about the same article or broadcast.

Many years ago, pro-life groups began targeting the Los Angeles Times for its biased abortion coverage. Up to that point, the Times had referred to the two sides in this debate as pro-choice and anti-abortion. After months of calls, letters, and cancelled subscriptions, the Times adopted a new policy. The newspaper stopped weighting its stories and began identifying the two sides by the names each preferred, pro-choice and pro-life; or by their actual positions, pro-abortion and anti-abortion.

One of the easiest ways to slant the news is to under-report something that doesn’t fit your “agenda” or not report on it at all. That’s called “spiking.” At the end of each year, invites readers to help pick the top stories spiked by the news media.

When you hear about an important story that is spiked, you need to jump on it immediately!

For example, last week, Robert Knight of the Media Research Center alerted me that the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals had upheld the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which enables the military to remove open homosexuals from service. The mainstream media were too busy doing stories pushing gay rights to report this important decision.

Do your favorite newspapers, journalists and television news broadcasts a favor. Hold them accountable!

6 thoughts on “The Passing of a Broadcast Legend — An Opportunity for Truth

  1. Jane,

    I agree with your column. There were many Tim Russerts in the days of Edward Murrow. Even the New York Times was once a quality newspaper before it became a tabloid like it is now.

    I wasn’t aware that members of the mainstream media were sensitive to criticism because they seem to be tone-deaf and to live in their own little bubble, and of course many of them do have an agenda. The bottom line, however, is that they are people, and they can be communicated with through persuasion. Ronald Reagan seemed to have good relations with the mainstream media even though they disagreed about many things. He got along well with Helen Thomas while Bush has only taken one question from her at news conferences in over seven years that he has been president.



  2. I agree with what you say. I have sent numerous messages to networks and journalists alike, but these things are not read and certainly not even evaluated. Most jounalists are arrogant, pompous asses who think their readers are rubes, and the journalists opinions are the only one that matters. So how do we hold them accountable?

    Galen Engel
    Abilene, TX.


  3. First, be sure that you understand the difference between a columnist or commentator and a writer, reporter. The former is paid to give his or her opinion. That’s what they do. However, writers and reproters and those who do interviews are expected to be non biased.

    Though one letter or phone call will not necessarly produce a noticable change, I can promise you it cases a report to think before he or she does the next story. However, if several — three or four respectful complains are logged it does produce results. Reporters have thin skin to be sure but they all want to be considered good journalists. If the comment just goes to the person who answers the phone, they are logged and read by everyone. It hurts.

    If you call a reporter directly, don’t do it near his or her deadline when they are pushed and most will be happy to hear you out. If not, send a letter to the editor or news director. Some have an ombudsman.

    I promise you, your calls and letters are helping keep them honest, but so few people do it. You would be surprised.


  4. Jane,

    Enjoyed your article which I first saw at World Net Daily.

    In a day and age when most conservatives are feeling pretty beleaguered and disheartened in the face of the predominately liberal slant of most media outlets, it is good to be reminded that our opinions do count – even with the liberal media if only for pecuniary reasons.

    As witnessed here in California the last week with most of the general media offering little to no analysis of the history, background and future portent of same-sex unions relative to the well-being of society, no respectful, calm debate on the issues, no discussion of the judicial and political manipulation and maleficence of democracy that has occurred, only emphasis of the elated feelings of those who support the new compact, conservatives and pro-family folks are left sobered and in need of inspiration.

    But if there is an opportunity in every crises, maybe the one here is that many people will begin to abandon the sources of media that offer no fair and intelligent reporting of the news and issues, and turn to those that do. And we’ll see readership and advertising sponsorship of liberal media continue to make an exodus towards sources that value the truth and the best interests of the public.

    I’ve recently noticed your columns at WND and have enjoyed them. Keep up the good work and may intelligent, knowledgeable voices like yours be increasingly heard.


  5. Jane,

    Well said. I knew Russert and interviewed with him on Meet the Press a couple of times. As you said he was always tough but fair. You never felt he was dealing you his personal agenda. If you said something dumb a few years back and then changed your position, he would bring it to your attention. This is fair. He was a genuinely nice guy who loved what he did. He was a very religious man as well. A rarity in the media today.

    Senator Bob Smith


  6. Jane,

    We’ve certainly lost a good man in the media, haven’t we? I hope that we get someone new who will be fair like Russert. By the way, I have a comment about Tony Snow on my blogsite, and also on the MyFoxLA blogsite under my blog name mystere. The title is “Tony Snow RIP; See You In Heaven” on both sites. I remember you had Tony Snow on your show several times in the late 90s on KBRT. As for Tim Russert, I know you had plenty of respect for him too. Russert also reminded me of the late Bill Stout from KCBS.

    I hope to hear from you sometime.

    Edward Endo

    mystere’s moonbat slayer club


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