Greta Van Susteren and her Fox News show “On the Record” did a bunch of coverage last night on the troubles of the Herman Cain campaign. Through all of it, Van Susteren failed to disclose on air that her husband, Washington mover and shaker John Coale, is an informal adviser to the campaign.
Break out the always-predictable shouting match about what she should have done. A Fox News executive claims that a blog post written by Van Susteren takes care of the transparency issues. Colby Hall of Mediaite saddles up on the opposite side of the issue:
Disclosures are a necessary component of journalistic integrity, and to dismiss it to a barely-read blog post, instead of an on-air comment, raises questions about the journalistic standards to which [Fox News executive] Bill Shine holds his own network. If Van Susteren is going to cover Herman Cain, and her husband is an adviser, then that fact should be front and center, and On the Record.
Here’s a proposal: Bag both of those ideas.
Instead, run a special ticker on the screen listing all of the potential conflicts of interest that flow into Van Susteren’s programming via her husband. In that blog post, she provides a list of her husband’s powerful friends:
Gov O’Malley (D)
Gov Palin (R)
The Clintons (D)
Speaker Gingrich (R)
Leader Pelosi (D)
Senator Santorum (R)
Congresswoman Bachmann (R)
Senator John Kerry (D)
Mr. Herman Cain (R)
And that’s only a partial accounting. If Coale can come up with a bunch more. we’ll have ourselves a bona fide Greta Van Susteren Conflict-of-Interest Ticker. It could start with this warning: “Beware if any of the following individuals are covered on this program.” With such an innovation, she’ll never have to do the awkward work of stating a conflict on-air or the always-time-consuming work of formulating a blog post. Problem solved. Get the graphics people right on it, Fox.