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Friday, January 18, 2008

Critique Or Drivel

Politics and campaigns stir up some of the most interesting and unlikely conflicts. Did you happen to catch the drama that took place this week between CNN's John King and's Glenn Greenwald?

It all started on Saturday when Mr. Greenwald posted a critique of an interview that aired on Friday, January 11th’s The Situation Room. John King was in South Carolina and spoke with Senator John McCain.

If you’d like to read the full article, click here.

The segment that aired during the 6PM ET hour showed Mr. King asking Sen. McCain four questions. Mr. Greenwald’s criticism was that they were softball questions and showed bias in favor of the senator.

This is the clip that aired during the 6PM ET hour that is quoted in Mr. Greewald’s article.

Now, in my attempt to locate this clip, I came across a slightly different clip that ran during the 4PM ET hour:

I doubt that a day goes by that CNN (or any 24 hour news network) doesn’t get its share of criticism- particularly from online media sources. Ever so often one of those articles will draw the attention of someone at CNN- in this case, John King contacted Mr. Greenwald.

Below is the email as it was posted by Mr. Greenwald on Wednesday:

From: King, John C
Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 5:40 PM
Subject: excuse me?

I don't read biased uninformed drivel so I'm a little late to the game.

But a friend who understands how my business works and knows a little something about my 20 plus years in it sent me the link to your ramblings.

Since the site suggests you have law training, maybe you forgot that good lawyers to a little research before they spit out words.

Did you think to ask me or anyone who works with me whether that was the entire interview? No. (It was not; just a portion used by one of the many CNN programs.)

Did you reach out to ask the purpose of that specific interview? No.

Or how it might have fit in with other questions being asked of other candidates that day? No.

Or anything that might have put facts or context or fairness into your critique. No.

McCain, for better or worse, is a very accessible candidate. If you did a little research (there he goes with that word again) you would find I have had my share of contentious moments with him over the years.

But because of that accessibility, you don't have to go into every interview asking him about the time he cheated on his sixth grade math test.

The interview was mainly to get a couple of questions to him on his thoughts on the role of government when the economy is teetering on the edge of recession, in conjunction with similar questions being put to several of the other candidates.

The portion you cited was aired by one of our programs -- so by all means it is fair game for whatever "analysis" you care to apply to it using your right of free speech and your lack of any journalistic standards or fact checking or just plain basic curiosity.

You clearly know very little about journalism. But credibility matters. It is what allows you to cover six presidential campaigns and be viewed as fair and respectful, while perhaps a little cranky, but Democrats and Republicans alike. When I am writing something that calls someone's credibility into question, I pick up the phone and give them a chance to give their side, or perspective.

That way, even on days that I don't consider my best, or anywhere close, I can look myself in the mirror and know I tried to be fair and didn't call into question someone's credibility just for sport, or because I like seeing my name on a website or my face on TV.

You can read the full article here.

This response didn’t sway Mr. Greenwald from his original opinion. It actually ended up reinforcing it as the rest of the article goes on to explain.

All this raises two questions for me: Was the interview biased? How would you respond to someone questioning your motives, professionally?

First, I am biased... I’m a fan of CNN; I’m a fan of John King’s; and I have absolutely no intention of voting for Senator McCain anytime in the foreseeable future. I don’t really have an opinion of Mr. Greenwald.

Other than the political commentators, like James Carville, and the outspoken Lou Dobbs, I couldn’t tell you the personal political beliefs of any of the journalists that have been covering the presidential race. The interview clip in question doesn’t sway me towards Senator McCain nor did it scream out to me that Mr. King had joined the McCain campaign. Personally, I prefer watching interviews where the person asking the questions isn’t being antagonistic for no reason even if I am rolling my eyes at the answers that are being given. (I've done a lot of eye rolling over the past year.)

Unbiased coverage doesn’t mean that all the candidates get the same amount of attention, either. There’s a limited amount of air time and viewers have a limited attention span. Mainstream media tends to spend more time talking to those candidates that are polling well at that particular moment. You don’t see too many interviews with Alan Keyes. (For anyone who might not realize it- yes, he’s running for president, again.)

Email and the internet are wonderful things. Send a response on Tuesday and read about it on Wednesday. Any time a person's professional integrity has been questioned, you can expect a heated response. At least Mr. King's response is rational and brings up some valid points.


Mystery Journalist

Time for something that doesn't involve politics.

Can you name this CNN journalist?

Think you know who it is? Let us know in the comments.

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Anonymous said...

You go John King!!!

Lulu said...

I have never seen a bias in John King's work. I don't know anything about Glenn Greenwald, so I can't really comment on his views. But John King's email does raise some very valid points about doing research and being credible. King is really riled up in his email! I probably would be too if someone questioned my professional integrity. All I can say is BRAVO John King!!!