Charles Gibson wins one final Media Putz for outFoxing Fox ‘News’
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on December 17, 2009
As we mark the end this week of the Charles Gibson era as anchor of “World News Tonight” for the last 3½ years, we could salute his obsessions with middle-class definitions, capital gains tax, lapel pins, or his inane questioning priority during Obama’s health care forum in the White House.
However, as it turns out, his news program led on December 9 with such a deceptive story, as if Gibson were saying one more “F-U” to standard journalism practices.
“A Closer Look” took reporter David Wright into the Climate-Gate story. Was it bunk? Was it true? Alas, these weren’t questions on the minds of ABC News that night.
But what earns them special “praise” is that they pulled a trick that Fox “News” had done six days earlier, and made it even more deceiving.
Wright starts out with video clips from two “experts” on the topic: Glenn Beck and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who referred to global warming as “scientific fascism.” At least Sensenbrenner has some authority as a Congressman, but you think you know what’s coming when you see Beck on the screen.
After quoting from the clueless senior senator from Oklahoma, James Inhofe, the segment then plays a portion of “The Daily Show” where Jon Stewart was lampooning about “poor” Al Gore, and how the end of global warming was done in by the Internet, which Gore “invented.”
“Fox & Friends” — that bastion of news journalistic integrity on the Fox “News” Channel — had played the same excerpt six days earlier out of context without pointing out that Stewart later said that global warming was real, and the stolen e-mails didn’t prove a thing.
“Poor Al Gore. Global warming completely debunked via the very Internet you invented. Oh, oh the irony. The iron-y.”
We know Fox “News” doesn’t have a sense of humor — especially Steve Doocy. If you were one of the 6 people who watched “The 1/2 Hour News Hour,” you know why conservatives aren’t usually intentionally funny.
ABC News claims to have high standards, presumably higher than Fox. But ABC took the Fox trick one step further, further distorting the Jon Stewart pulled quote. Here is how ABC aired the clip:
“Poor Al Gore. Global warming completely debunked via the very Internet you invented. Oh.”
ABC cut off Stewart in the middle of a sentence, or a thought, at least. Fox, for all its crazy journalism practices, left in the part about the irony. As in there was a chance that Stewart was kidding. ABC so abused the clip that if you had no point of reference, you could have thought Stewart was serious about “poor Al Gore” and how “Global warming completely debunked” was reality.
This bears repeating: in one instance, Fox News had slightly less worse ethics than ABC News.
The considerable time and positioning of this story on ABC News could have been used to prove that Climate-Gate was a bunch of bull. Apparently, it wasn’t that difficult to find out the truth.
The story’s lack of interest in the truth is illustrated in this exchange:
WRIGHT: Global warming may be a scientific issue, but it’s also a hot-button political debate. So right now, the scientists aren’t the only ones on the defensive. Politicians are, too.
LISA JACKSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: There is nothing in the hacked e-mails that undermines the science.
WRIGHT: That may be true, but the e-mails threaten to undermine the political effort under way in Copenhagen.
Global warming is a scientific issue, not “may be.” What EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said is true, not “may be.” But again, the truth, the facts are getting in the way of the story.
There are several other “tricks” Wright uses, sadly common in TV news stories to paint a distorted picture of a situation.
But using a technique from “Fox & Friends” and making it worse is below the normal expectations of an established network nightly newscast, even if that keeps falling. That would be plagiarism of sorts of a ethically challenged practice. And if the trickery came independent of Fox, that could be even worse.
This comes down to accountability. Wright is the reporter. If the managing editor/anchor didn’t want this standard of journalism, that person will step up. Since that person is Charles Gibson, there isn’t much chance of that happening. Peter Jennings would not believe what Gibson has done to the standard he set.
And Gibson also takes the blame for placing this third-rate sense of reporting, decency, and ethics as the lead story in the newscast. “A Closer Look” perhaps, but more about the standards in a Charles Gibson newscast.
Television news operates with the philosophy of needing multi-million dollar anchors as they close bureaus and layoff reporters. Yet, the nightly news anchors, who usually have a managing editor title, take no responsibility for shoddy reporting or behavior. So even though David Wright gets full credit for doing the report, the name still reads World News Tonight with Charles Gibson. And Gibson let journalism standards fall, even below Fox’s sense of ethics. For that, and a fitting tribute to a lackluster stint as nightly news anchor, we send Charles Gibson off into the sunset with the Media Putz award.