Should George Stephanopoulos Change Programs?
I came across this story courtesy of the Lame Cherry blog, and then read more on it from a story posted on January 27th on Politico.com. It seems that for the past 20 years Rahm Emanuel, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala and James Carville all participate in a morning conference call. As Politico describes it:
Carville calls White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
Emanuel calls ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos.
A bit later, CNN commentator Paul Begala, who is not quite the early bird that his friends are, will complete the circle with a rapid set of calls to all three.
Different versions of this round-robin chatter have been taking place, with few interruptions, every workday for nearly a generation.
Interesting, two of the main CNN political pundits and ABC’s chief Sunday newsman “shoot the shit” every morning with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, albeit the article describes somewhat briefly, but, nonetheless, daily contact seems to be made. On the face of it this seems to be a nice little story — associations, friendships that have stood the test of time and the “rumble, tumble” of the beltway and are still going strong.
Remembering that the media used to function as the “fourth branch” of our federal government, things begin to get a bit more complicated. Begala and Carville appear regularly on CNN, but they appear on various CNN programs specifically for their political opinions, and those political opinions are known to be left fairly liberal opinions, so no harm done. We are aware of their bias and know it when we listen to their political opinions.
Mr. Stephanopoulos, though, now that is a bit of a different predicament. As most of you are aware, George Stephanopoulos hosts the show “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” The format of this show is interviewing politicians, and other people making political news. The host in this format is supposed to present a journalistic unbiased interview with the politician or newsmaker in an attempt to get at the facts of the political news surrounding that individual at the time. Toward the end of the show a political panel may come aboard where opinions are then shared, but clearly the bulk of this show is not based on opinion and is supposed to center around journalistic unbiased interviewing.
Now I admit, I do not watch “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” but I can’t help but think with such a close friendship with Rahm Emanuel, a political bias must at some times creep into Mr. Stephanopoulos’ reporting. It would be human nature and virtually impossible not to have your bias regarding Rahm Emanuel and the present Administration reflected in your reporting, interviewing whether it be conscious or unconscious.
According to Politico:
Stephanopoulos’ role is as the analyst and the skeptic. “George is really a big-systems thinker,” Begala said. “As a journalist, he is half of a political scientist, and because he’s not in the partisan battles anymore, he sees things differently.”
It is a sensitive point for Stephanopoulos, who shot to fame as a Bill Clinton retainer and has worked hard to fashion a reputation as an independent journalist.
Independent journalist, that is the question before us in this situation. Is it possible for Mr. Stephanopoulos to do his job, act as an unbiased journalist interviewer during his weekly broadcast? As I’ve argued above, I find it hard to believe that true journalistic integrity remains intact here. Sensitive to Mr. Stephanopoulos’ hard work at remaining an independent journalist, it seems that ABC News should give him a new program rather than releasing him from the station altogether, but the show should be an opinion oriented show and not journalistic unbiased news.
As a side note to this story, the other thing that bothers me about these conference calls is that they are a reflection of the cronyism that exists in Washingtong D.C. With Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff, Paul Begala and James Carville regulars on CNN, and Mr. Stephanopoulos hosting a weekly news show on ABC, I can’t imagine this is the Citizen Government of our Constitutional Republic kept in check by an ethical media that the Founding Fathers envisioned.