It’s a too-common sequence in the media business: A news outlet gets out in front of a big story and aggressively follows it up. Then it starts rooting for the story.
That’s the path that Newsbusters.org is now blazing vis-a-vis NBC’s mangled editing of George Zimmerman’s conversation with an emergency dispatcher. After blasting NBC for nearly two weeks on the Zimmerman audio-editing fracas, NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell has gone activist. He’s demanding a congressional investigation of the matter.
In his words:
“Today we are contacting appropriate committees in Congress asking them to investigate Comcast / NBC’s public deception in view of the proposed Comcast / Verizon business deal; and Comcast’s duty to the public trust given one of their premier properties – NBC – has advanced this deception and arrogantly refuses to apologize to its own broadcast viewers.”
Bolded text in original, to stress the importance of the congressional investigation.
Odd: NewsBusters, which monitors the mainstream media for evidence of lefty bias, is a conservative organization. So why is it calling for an expansionist federal government to start hammering away at a First Amendment-enabled media organization? How often do NewsBusters and its affiliated Media Research Center call for such governmental big footism? Writes Bozell via e-mail: “We’ve called on Congress to investigate public broadcasting many times.”
And what about the Bill of Rights? Any concerns about freedom of the press? Bozell: “Of course I have concerns, and in fact I wish we weren’t doing this. But a) there is ample precedent. Congress has, for example, investigated media exit polls; b) there are public trust issues at play here. NBC is fanning the flames of racial animus through this kind of doctored, and thoroughly dishonest journalism. Florida is a powder keg ready to explode. Doesn’t NBC bear some responsibility to the public trust? And c), journalists are constantly calling on Congress to investigate mergers and corporate agendas. Private citizens don’t have the same right?”
A congressional investigation into NBC’s tape editing would cost money. Just how much cash is NewsBusters comfortable with the federal government sinking into this NBC probe? “Enough to determine if there is a breach of the public trust,” responds Bozell.
One final point relates to NBC’s apology. Last Tuesday, the network issued a statement that included the following sentence: “We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers.” Bozell has a different view: “NBC has NOT apologized to its viewers. It was a cheap publicity stunt, putting out a silly press release. If NBC wants to apologize to its viewers, NBC will go on air with its viewers and apologize. Good Lord. How hard is that?”
Bozell’s apology gripe goes to the heart of contemporary media politics. Did Rush Limbaugh really apologize to Sandra Fluke? Did Geraldo really apologize for the hoodie thing? And what about NBC?