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FINEFROCK This Week's Deja Voodoo: "Fair And Balanced"
by Steve Finefrock - Hollywood Forum
[scriptwriter] 6/5/06

Memorial Day's festival of rah-rah-America movies, broadcast and cable selections, is over. Now let the normal routine begin, the usual suspects emerge, and a long-overdue rating of the raters enter the fray. The Yap-A-Rama festival this post-MemDay Sunday is rated by the Hollywood Forum, in preparation for fifty-one weeks of left-leaning commentary to offset the one brief week of Hollywood offering to patriotism and enthusiasm for America.

Fair-&-Balanced Scoring System

Each weekend panel discussion offers a chance for insight to how the media think, or how they behave in any case. The standard shows with wrap-segment panel discussions -- Meet the Press, This Week, Fox News Sunday, et al -- -plus the all-panel, all-the-time entries -- McLaughlin Group, Washington Week in Review -- are scored by the balance and strength of players on each show, and its host, with a "0" being perfect balance between right and left perspective and history of its panel membership. A left-leaning takes that show into a negative range, and in the rare occasion of a right-leaning result, the score is a positive number.


Founder of Hollywood Forum, a speaker-bureau and panel-discussion vehicle to "Bring the Potomac to the Palisades" on issues that overlap politics and culture with the Hollywood film-TV influence on such national concerns. His scripts have addressed politics [including a TV series pilot/bible package about state political combat, called "A State of the Union"], hazardous materials [from twelve years in emergency management, including six years managing FEMA's Superfund curriculum for hazmat], terrorism, equestrian reincarnation, serial murderer killing journalists in the nation's capitol, and fantasy about time-wasters.[go to Finefrock index]

Media bias is one of many to remain in the cultural combat weapons locker, with the final and seventh "seal of liberals' fate" being Hollywood. Small progress has been achieved in the first six seals -- political opinion magazines, think-tank effect on policy, campaign-methodology achievement, talk-radio, news coverage and commentary, and blogs wrap up the history in preparation for our final assault.

The Usual Suspects

The top of the heap is This Week [once with David Brinkley, when it really counted], now with Georgie Porgie Stephanopolous, a Clinton political operative whose rise to host this show was just one more proof of life of the left in dominating the news business, and commentary. Brinkley was slowly crossing the political Rubicon, to the rightside, when retirement left the show in the hands of Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson. Some 'balance' there -- to be replaced by a single host with Georgie boy. This week on This Week was the typical balance: George Will as the regular conservative, paired with Robert Reich, an ardent Clintonista and colleague of Georgie, plus the "power couple" of TIME's Jay Carney and his babe-with-brains wife, Clare Shipman, ABC colleague with Georgie. Scoring an early point in bashing America was Reich, discussing the massacre focus of all the weekend shows: "We don't know how many Hadithas there are."

Score for This Week in this first week's ratings, post-MemDay FilmFest of patriotic fervor, is -3, with only one ardent conservative in the pack, as the "Other George" to the show's host heralding such Clinton bias. No show in this collection is hosted by a onetime operative from a rightwing administration. "TW" is lucky it's not scored at -5, as a host has great influence on the tenor of a panel, plus its selection of guests and themes, as well as set-up pieces to start the chatter.

Tale of Two Chris's

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, son of leftwing scion Mike Wallace, gives the only fair-and-balanced show that might somewhat score positively, with Brit Hume and Bill Kristol as a pair of well-presented conservatives [compared to so many others 'chosen' by panel hosts], offsetting Susan Page of USA Today, and always-left [and always-wrong] Juan Williams. Page is among the least left of the spate of lefties that dominate the booking on these panels, giving FNS a score of +0.5, since Wallace does at time sound like he's going to get a spanking when he next sees his lefty dad.

Then came Chris -- Matthews, another political operative of the left given a voice and forum to spout his Tip O'Neill upbringing, with this week including near-regular Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC [Hugh Hewitt's least-favorite news cutie], and CNN's John Roberts sitting among Elizabeth Bumiller of the NY Times and her colleague, softy-republican David Brooks. A 'balanced' pair of NY Times entries is not matched elsewhere in the membership, and with Chris' history, "CM" garners a score of -1.5 this week, which is less biased than is typical of that show.

Old Standbys

Washington Week in Review is hosted by another lefty, Gwen Ifil, whose guests included TIME ass't. managing editor, Mike Duffy, sitting among Doyle McManus of the LA Times [its Washington bureau chief] and David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal, plus newcomer Janine Zacharia of Bloomberg news. McDuffy characterized the Haditha story as a Rorschach Test of Americans' response, and the panel generally saw the story in 'neutral' tones of those who wish never to be seen as too-patriotic. It's mindful of a PBS panel two decades ago, in the Fred Friendly seminars, where a hypothetical raid on American GIs was being covered by reporters, and the news members of the panel ultimately felt they could not warn the Americans, for they were merely observers, not Americans in that combat situation. A sickened Marine colonel observed that he'd be expected to sacrifice his men's blood to recover any media members who'd been wounded in such an outbreak, and that he would do so, even while overwhelmed with nausea for doing his duty to those who were more duty- bound to journalism than to America. Thus, as so often is the case, "WWIR" gets a score of -4.5, even with one ostensibly conservative WSJ reporter on the panel.

Meet the Pres" had only a two-member panel, to discuss public affairs, contrasting with the frequent four-member group, this week including WSJ's John Harwood with Gwen Ifil. Yep, there's Gwen again, evidence again that MTP again goes to its kissin' cousins in journalistic incest that runs as rampant as in any Arkansas hillbilly joke. Harwood referred regularly to a joint poll with NBC; odd, no one wants to have a joint poll with Fox, or the Washington Times. With Mr. Earnest as the host, Tim Russert's long history as a political operative for the left, MTP scores a sad, but better-than-usual, -1 for this week's effort.

Bottom of the Barrel

McLaughlin Group groping makes one cry, and struggle to endure until its end -- which I did not, as usual -- but its usual suspects include odd-but-most-rightwing Pat Buchanan [a favorite for lefty show bookers to present as 'typical' of conservative thought] with always-left/always-screeching/always-wrong Eleanor Clift. Oddly, this is the one show that endures a Washington Times contribution, and onetime political operative of the right, Tony Blankeley -- who served as Newt's chief of staff, and has to suffer Clift's constant, incurable harangue about GI misbehavior and America's failure to meet a standard of virtual perfection in warfare that she would never apply to FDR or Wilson, or even LBJ. Financial Times' Caroline Daniel filled out this bottom-feeder of yap-a-rama output. With McLaughlin himself an odd bird, a breed akin to Huffington -- sometimes populist, sometimes traditionalist -- the "MG" thus scores a usual-suspects' rating of -1.75, which would be worse but for a true-conservative like Blankeley being present.

Reliable Sources has little panel output, but being the navel-gazing entry of journalism -- the only such effort, pale though it be -- it is worth noting its panel entry this week, with Torrie Clark representing reasoned-righties against the hottest political babe ever to sashay in front of a camera, The Nation's boss, hurricane of lefty thought Katrina vanden Heuvel. Here was a case of even-matching, with host Howie playing neutral and struggling to maintain balance of time between the two ladies. No such luck, as Heuvel is so convinced of her righteousness she makes the Ayatollah seem like Hamlet. Score is even on guest booking, but the time-allocation skews it slightly, so the RS final tally is -0.5.

Institutional Bias

The sources of such guests continue to be skewed to the left, with only one right-speaking member heralding from a conservative publication. This week's score for balance-of-sources is a usual-suspects' rating of -15. Seems there needs to be some affirmative action for conservatives, as individuals and their sponsoring institutions. Every show strives to have at least one woman, sometimes all-women [Ifil does this on "WWIR" on occasion], and not infrequently a 'balance' of women and men on the panel membership. Maybe sometime these shows will take a tally of conservatives and grant some affirmative action for the right.

Summary Scores, accounting for the 'weight' of each panel's total body-count to give an average at bottom:

TW: -3.0
Fox:: +0.5
CM: -1.5
WWIR: -4.5
MTP: -1.0
McL: -1.75
RS: -0.5
avg: -1.8

Thus, we see that the mild success in tiny wedges of conservative thought entering the news shows each Sunday [compared to my younger days] is still far from 'fair and balanced' we can gird our loins for the battle in Hollywood. It's a long, long way to their being fair at Hollywood and Vine, yet there is a noticeable "Right Turn on Sunset" [working title for a pending documentary] and as our squad grows to platoon size and then company strength, we must remember that in the news media, there is still no fair and balanced approach by the current title holders. They are protecting their position as surely as Boss Jim Taylor bitterly attacked the legitimacy and honor of Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington -- featured on TCM this past weeks -- and will give no ground. No respect. No honorable regard.

We have to take it. Fox News helped erode a tiny bit of the edifice of six-decades' news dominance by the liberals. When we get to company strength in Hollywood, expect not easy favors. They will give nothing. Gwen Ifil gives nothing, nor does Georgie, nor Tim Russert. When you see their faces, think of "MSGTW" with Boss Taylor's no-quarter response to a challenge against his power.

Why would Meathead, or Moore, or Garofalo, or Spielberg? Their ratings of fair-&-balanced would be -500, and will remain so for a long time past our carbon-based life-tenure in Hollywood. Thus the lessons this week the many clones of This Week -- lots of Georgie Porgies controlling the game's playing surface, the stadium, its parking lot outside, and well beyond. We are Mr. Smith, and we are going to Hollywood. It's a long way before we get our happy ending.

copyright 2006 Steve Finefrock





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