Action Alert: PBS Replacing Moyers, Now. . .With Newsweek's Jon Meacham?

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Steve Rendall
srendall@fair.org
Tel: 212-633-6700 x13

Action Alert: PBS Replacing Moyers, Now. . .With Newsweek's Jon Meacham?

Meacham hire would send the wrong message

NEW YORK - PBS is reportedly in final talks with Newsweek editor Jon Meacham to be co-host of its forthcoming Need to Know program (New York Times, 3/9/10). Meacham's consideration for a show that would replace hard-hitting independent programs Now and the Bill Moyers Journal sends a clear and troubling message about PBS's priorities (Extra! Update, 6/05).

 

TAKE ACTION!

ACTION: Please write to PBS and tell them that choosing Jon Meacham to host Need to Know would mean that public television still needs to find suitable replacements for the hard-hitting, independent journalism of Now and Bill Moyers Journal.

CONTACT:
Michael Getler, PBS Ombud
Web Form: http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/feedback.html

Please post copies of your letters in the comments section on the FAIR Blog.


Meacham is a fixture on commercial pundit shows in addition to his Newsweek duties.
In these venues, he is a consummate purveyor of middle-of-the-road
conventional wisdom with a conservative slant. After the 2008 election,
Meacham (10/27/08)
authored an article on America as a "center-right nation"--a conclusion
based on dubious historical analogies (Sarah Palin is a kind of Thomas
Jefferson) and cherry-picking national election results, casting aside
evidence that would undermine the conclusion (FAIR Blog, 10/19/08).

He recently (FAIR Blog, 11/30/09)
cheered on a Dick Cheney presidential run as "good for the Republicans
and good for the country." Meacham had just months earlier (FAIR Blog, 1/12/09)
argued that any critical investigations into the Bush/Cheney record on
torture would be pointless ("the rough equivalent of pornography," as
he put it).

Meacham's approach to journalism seems to be antithetical to the hard-hitting approach of Moyers and Now;
he's called on journalists to "cover other institutions as you would
want to be covered," with "charity and dignity and respect" (Meet the Press, 1/1/06). This Golden Rule approach to news was illustrated when he intervened in a Newsweek online
story about Joe Scarborough, a personal friend who often invites
Meacham on his cable show, to remove from the lead the fact that
Scarborough had served as the defense attorney for the murderer of an
abortion provider (FAIR Blog, 6/11/09).

Of course, some sources get more than their share "charity, dignity and
respect," as when Meacham remarked about interviewing Rev. Billy Graham
(Imus in the Morning,
6/27/05): "It was amazing. I went in and I realized this is what God
probably was going to look like. The white hair, the blue eyes, he'll
have a Southern accent, that's the way it should be, I think."

While Now and Bill Moyers Journal
are notable for holding politicians feet to the fire, Meacham uses much
more generous standards. After Cheney and right-wing Democratic Sen.
Zell Miller gave speeches at the 2004 Republican National Convention
that were filled with blatant distortions--accusing Democratic
candidate John Kerry of being opposed to all U.S. weapons systems
because he had voted against a Pentagon appropriations bill, for
instance (FAIR Media Advisory, 9/3/04)--Meacham (MSNBC, 9/1/04)
called it "a brilliant tactical night, one of the most brilliant in the
age of television. These were two concise, rather devastating
rhetorical hits at John Kerry.... They did not miss anything that they
could hit."

Following the November 2009 announcement about the retirement of Moyers and the cancellation of Now, FAIR launched a petition (12/16/09) signed by over 14,000 people, calling on PBS to
develop new programming that would feature the independent,
outside-the-Beltway perspectives that appeared on those programs. PBS's response (1/22/10) was a recycled press release that didn't address any of the activists' concerns, instead asserting vaguely that "PBS is
committed to maintaining the highest level of news and public affairs
programming." This announcement suggests that that "highest level" is
going downhill fast.

ACTION: Please write to PBS and tell them that choosing Jon Meacham to host Need to Know would mean that public television still needs to find suitable replacements for the hard-hitting, independent journalism of Now and Bill Moyers Journal.

CONTACT:
Michael Getler, PBS Ombud
Web Form: http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/feedback.html

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FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.

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