Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Jennings 'Concerned' About Media Objectivity

Jennings: Media In Glaring Spotlight
Jennings Says Aim Is Objectivity, Fairness
POSTED: 5:02 PM CDT October 19, 2004
UPDATED: 5:32 PM CDT October 19, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- ABC news anchor Peter Jennings said he's getting an earful on media coverage.

Jennings is on a swing through battleground states, including Iowa and Missouri, where polls show the race could go either to President George W. Bush or Sen. John Kerry.

"I think one of the best reasons to go on the road is just to listen," Jennings told KETV NewsWatch 7's Rob McCartney during a stop in Kansas City, Mo., Monday.

Jennings gets questions about a CBS report on Bush's National Guard service, for which CBS news anchor Dan Rather later apologized and said the story was a mistake. He's also asked about Sinclair Broadcasting's decision to air a controversial documentary on Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam war record. Another big question regards an ABC internal memo from the political director suggesting that reporters need not "reflexively" hold both sides of the presidential election "equally" accountable.

Jennings said the media is now under the hot lights.

"I'm a little concerned about this notion everybody wants us to be objective," Jennings said.

Jennings said that everyone -- even journalists -- have points of view through which they filter their perception of the news. It could be race, sex or income. But, he said, reporters are ideally trained to be as objective as possible.

"And when we don't think we can be fully objective, to be fair," the anchorman said.

Does the public think network news is fair? There are a number of opinion polls that show news consumers feel that the media does have a slant.

Jennings maintains those polls may be driven by groups with an agenda.

"There's a whole industry of conservatives saying, 'Ah, it's those damn liberals,' and a whole group of liberals saying, 'It's all those damn conservatives,'" Jennings said.

The problematic response, Jennings said, is the way people tailor the way they consume news.

"If you tailor your news viewing, as some people are now doing, so that you only get one point of view, well of course you're going to think somebody else has got a different point of view, and it may be wrong," Jennings said.