Debating the Big Issues, NewsHour Style

One of the most common criticisms of the PBS NewsHour is that it too often mimics the elite bias of the commercial media.

A recent broadcast of the NewsHour (6/8/11) had two segments about the debate over the Afghan War–the first a news report covering the Senate nomination hearings for Ryan Crocker, Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Afghanistan. Quoted in the piece were senators Jim Webb (D.-Va.) and Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.), Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Barack Obama.

The discussion segment that accompanied it featured two more senators: Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez. Chambliss is a supporter of the war, with some reservations, while Menendez wants to continue the war with a different strategy:

I think you could do more of a counterterrorism effort, where you are striking at Al-Qaeda and along the Afghan/Pakistan border, even striking at the Taliban to just to continue destabilize them.

As FAIR pointed out in our most recent study of the NewsHour, actual opponents of the war are hard to find.

On June 7, the NewsHour had a discussion about the state of the economy, and what the White House might be able to do to turn things around. Again, the guestlist was disappointing. Here’s Gwen Ifill’s introduction:

We explore that now with Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, Mark Vitner, senior economist for Wells Fargo in Charlotte, N.C., and Tom Binnings, senior partner at Summit Economics in Colorado.

A Beltway political reporter for a mainstream daily, an economist for a bank and a partner at an economic forecasting firm. The banker expressed a view common in corporate America–that there’s too much government regulation.(“It seems that regulation has increased…. Companies are really kind of put off by the amount of regulations that are hitting them all at once.”)

There was little challenge to that sentiment–a predictable outcome, given the guests that the show booked to talk about the issue. The NewsHour should do better.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.