Thursday, February 16, 2006

Helen Thomas has been in the White Press Corp for 45 years and she’s never come across someone like Hugh Hewitt?

Talk about wearing blinders.

This interview gets to the very heart of media bias and is definitely worth listening to – or reading. Hewitt frequently asks journalists to state their bias or say who the voted for and invariably they refuse to answer. The exchange with Frau Thomas happens to be one of the more humorous ones. She parries and dodges and insists that her bias never made it into her copy and then tries to get Hewitt to admit his bias – which he quickly does – since he’s proudly transparent. She doesn’t seem to understand that a journalist can state their bias and still report facts. Amazing.

Thomas: Am I talking to a journalist?
Hewitt: Yes. Yes, for a long time. I'm just curious about what's gone wrong...
Thomas: Tell me about your career. What have you really done?
Hewitt: Well, it's not nearly as impressive as you.
Thomas: Where did...yes, it''s very important to me. Where did you work?
Hewitt: PBS for ten years.
Thomas: PBS?
Hewitt: Yes.
Thomas: Well, that's a good credential.
Hewitt: There you have it. See? I'm...
Thomas: But then you decided to switch over?
Hewitt: To switch over to what?
Thomas: God knows what you are.

Hewitt might as well be an alien to Thomas.

My history and political science professors in college were the same way about admitting bias. They were a generally a likable and respectable lot, but would never say what their political leanings were. And you’d have better luck discovering their secret freckle than how they voted. They didn’t want to sway the students, they’d say. My belief is that they should put that on the table and let the students “make an informed decision”. They’re free not to, of course, but I tend to trust somebody less if they hide it. There’s the rub – one side thinks their bias doesn’t interfere with their objectivity so should be of no interest to their readers or students, while the other side prefers to know where the professor or journalist is coming from. The former is what I define as arrogance, the latter, respect for the reader or student.

Towards the end of the interview, Hewitt gets her saying several opposing things and generally melting before him. If you listen to one Hewitt grilling this year, make it this interview with Frau Thomas.

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