The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Peter Hart
(212) 633-6700 ext. 11

Meacham to PBS Would Send the Wrong Message


According to a report on the New York Times website (3/9/10),
PBS is in talks with Newsweek editor Jon Meacham to be co-host of its
forthcoming Need to Know program. If the report proves accurate, it
gives viewers little hope for the kind of critical, uncompromising
programming that public television was created to foster. 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.

Meacham is a fixture on commercial TV 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 authored an article on America as a
"center-right nation"-- a conclusion based on dubious historical
analogies (Sarah Palin is Thomas Jefferson) and cherry-picking national
election results, casting aside evidence that would undermine the

Meacham recently cheered on a Dick Cheney presidential run as "good for
the Republicans and good for the country." Meacham had just months
earlier 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." 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.

"Replacing Bill Moyers and David Brancaccio with Jon Meacham would be
like replacing pit bulls with a pomeranian," said FAIR's Peter Hart.
"PBS exists to explore issues and perspectives that the commercial
media ignore or marginalize. To give this show to a center-right
mainstay of the corporate media would show that PBS has little interest
in living up to that promise."

Following the November 2009 announcement about the retirement of Moyers
and the cancellation of Now, FAIR launched a petition 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. This announcement shows that PBS has a very
different vision for its future.

The other host, according to the Times report, would be Alison Stewart, formerly of NPR, MSNBC and MTV.

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.