Friday, August 22, 2008

Born to rumor

It’s easy to believe what we see and hear on our television these days, especially when what we hear comes from the mouths of those we have come to respect in the world of journalism. So, with that in mind, consider the following: a retraction recently posted by Bob Costas of NBC Sports:

“…A few days ago in Beijing, Brian Williams and I had separate interviews with Michael Phelps. Just prior to those interviews, I had been told that the previous Friday night in Jacksonville, Bruce Springsteen had informed his audience that Phelps had won his seventh gold medal and that he then dedicated ‘Born in the USA’ to Michael....I had every reason to believe this information was accurate, and its source was reliable. In fact, I had intended to use it in my own interview with Phelps, but when time didn’t allow for it, I passed the story on to Brian, who did use it. As you may have seen, Phelps lit up at the story, which rang true for the additional reason that it’s the sort of thing Bruce might very well have done. Except that in this case, he didn’t. I had been misinformed. Still, the blame rests with me. So, I just wanted to set the record straight – and apologize to my friend Brian Williams, one of the best newsmen and biggest Springsteen fans I know…”

Now admittedly, mistakes happen, even to highly respected news journalists such as Costas and Williams. But it made me wonder how something so completely false ends up on the air—and what else gets repeated as fact.

Take for example a recent New Yorker cover that unflatteringly depicts Barack Obama in Middle Eastern/Islamic attire in the Oval Office, with wife Michelle carrying a machine gun. It’s easy to see how irresponsible and controversial journalism designed to sensationalize the issues helps to foster a misinformed American people. Perhaps this is the reason a measurable percentage of Americans falsely believe that Obama is Muslim.

It is our mission at MPT to educate our viewers and bring them the one-of-a-kind depth and insight they’ve come to expect from public television without compromising the integrity and forthrightness that have become our hallmarks. That is why we are proud to bring you this fall’s PBS Vote 2008 election lineup including coverage from both the local and state level as well as reports from the Democratic and Republican National Conventions via the News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

With the general election looming less than 70 (yes, it’s that close) days away, it is absolutely critical, perhaps now more than ever, to be vigilant as American citizens. It is our responsibility as Americans to look beyond the headlines, the campaign smears, the negative ads, to find out for ourselves just who we are casting our vote for on November 4th.

So please, between now and November, don’t just take Bill O’Reilly’s word for it; don’t assume Anderson Cooper is giving you all 360 degrees. Don’t be forced to rely on a media outlet that has to sensationalize every story to boost ratings enough to cover their advertising budget and turn a profit for CNN or FOX or any of the other major networks.

The time has come to roll up our sleeves as Americans, educate ourselves, question the answers and hold our leaders’ feet to the fire. It won’t be easy, but here at MPT we can help you get started.

P.S. Brian, Bob, if you’re reading this, from one Boss fan to another, all is forgiven.

Matt Rains
Member Services Representative

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