November 22, 2004
Over a decade ago, the founder of Accuracy in Media, Reed Irvine, told me about a now defunct committee that frankly needs to be recreated.
I was deeply saddened by the announcement of the death of Reed Irvine. He was a unique man of character, intelligence and principle. We didn't see each other often but I considered him a friend.
He impacted the work of many and contributed to the explosion of new media. The symbiotic link between the Internet and talk radio (although rarely acknowledged) was in many ways (direct and indirect) sparked by the work of Reed Irvine and Accuracy in Media.
In many ways Reed personified what has become a personal/professional credo for me: "It is not a question of WHO is right or wrong, but WHAT is right or wrong that counts."
He also routinely demonstrated a second Metcalf bromide, 'Some people just don't want to be confused with facts that contradict their preconceived opinions or prejudices.'
Ben Bradlee (while still Editor of the Washington Post) once called Irvine a "miserable, carping retromingent vigilante". Reed kept the note as a badge of honor. I confess I had to look up 'retromingent' (it refers to an animal that urinates backwards).
Since the Accuracy in Media founding 35 years ago, 'Mainstream Media' has suffered a series of significant losses (credibility, clout and audience).
Before Bernie Goldberg wrote 'Biased', before Matt Drudge, before The Media Research Center, NewsMax, WorldNetDaily, and scores of other 'new media' venues, there was AIM (Accuracy in Media) picking at the media scabs of bias, complacency, and hubris.
Over a decade ago Reed told me about group that atrophied and evaporated. I don't recall the name of that committee but it consisted of representatives from the then major news organizations, the wire services and major newspapers. They met periodically to function as an ad hoc industry ombudsman confronting specific perceived bias or shortcomings in their reportage. It was a great concept prematurely focused on a principle they apparently didn't like.
In the wake of the New York Times scandals, the CNN scandals, the CBS/Dan Rather scandals, the persistent malfeasance and sins of omission by the Fourth Estate, and begrudgingly acknowledged impact of the Internet, I offer a recommendation.
'Someone' (not me) needs to reestablish a Media Oversight Committee tasked with 'keeping the media honest' (or at least showcasing gross dishonesty).
There are already assorted groups allegedly doing that. However, most are tainted by some partisan spin or political prejudice. Brent Bozell's Media Research Center is perceived as 'conservative'. Norman Lear's FAIR (which isn't) is perceived as 'liberal'. The big three networks (notwithstanding their recent meeting to discuss the blowback from the election) remain in denial.
In honor of Irvine, the new group should be called:
The group should include representatives of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, and assorted Internet representatives (Matt Drudge, Chris Ruddy, Brent Bozell, Michael Kinsley, etc...)
Now I recognize that a group consisting of polar political proclivities and epic egos focused on commonality would be like herding cats in a rainstorm.
However, an empirical reality that even entrenched denizens of Manhattan and D.C. should recognize is that most Americans do not subscribe to the gospel according to the Left OR the Right.
Any news organization that presumes to inform, educate and instruct America has a moral and fiduciary responsibility to at least make a 'best faith' effort to provide news and analysis that is really fair and balanced.
They may never get it right...but they could and should try harder (and more honestly) to provide the service they claim to be offering.
There will always been a place for adversarial punditry and spin. However, the current fourth estate environment offers only two thirds of the dialectic...suggesting the audience synthesize mutually exclusive data.
We may never get it right. But we could and should try harder. The creation (recreation) of an organization of decision makers critically and honestly examining the work product they presume to offer the American people cannot be a bad thing.
It is axiomatic that 'some people just don't want to be confused with facts that contradict their preconceived opinions or prejudices." However, like in 'The Field of Dreams' movie..."if you build it...they will come."
Systemic denial notwithstanding, media credibility is becoming synonymous with 'Military Intelligence' and 'Government Integrity' in the litany of oxymorons.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to identify and mitigate the media problems. Given all the mainstream media leviathans are publicly traded companies with a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, 'some' Director should compel them to get their respective houses in order. A reportage task force would be a step in the right direction...for those prepared to herd cats.
© 2004 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved
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"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Visit Geoff's Web Site: www.geoffmetcalf.com. While you're at it - pick up a copy of Geoff's latest book! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to identify and mitigate the media problems. Given all the mainstream media leviathans are publicly traded companies with a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders