The Seattle Post Intelligencer executive producer Sarah Rupp hasn't responded to numerous emails I have sent regarding an inaccurate and unfair blog it published. I have also emailed other Seattle Post Intelligencer officials. They, too, have not responded. Here are my comments as emailed to Rupp:[hr]
It came to my attention that a blogger for you, Rita Robison, wrote an article about me (without contacting me) and I wrote her back the following:
A viewer on the west coast forwarded to me a blog you wrote somewhere attacking my program full measure (and me) as “right wing.” It’s hard to know where to begin with somebody who gets their information from one-sided talking point sources and doesn’t seek facts.
For example, if you think doing a story on the cost if regulations is somehow inherently right wing rather than simply addressing an interesting topic on the minds of many Americans, then it could be that you are the one with the bias.
If you think interviewing someone from heritage foundation makes me or a story “conservative” then I suppose my many stories interviewing only democrats or interviewing people from progressive groups like public citizen makes me liberal but—wait a minute! That doesn’t fit your knee jerk theory.
The last Emmy award I received before I quit CBS was for a series that included an undercover investigation of republican freshman fundraising.
In your world that would be “one-sided” and make me a liberal.
But wait a minute—that doesn’t fit your theory!
I received an Emmy for investigating the bait and switch of TARP under President Bush. I got used to being called a liberal.
But wait! That doesn’t fit your theory!
The truth is I always cover and will continue to cover interesting topics from various views.
I especially like to cover topics that powerful interests don’t want covered.
For someone like you, this may make you upset from time to time. You will likely find the kind of agenda-drive news you’re looking for on most other national programs; I’m proud to say you won’t find it on mine.
Can you please provide me contact information for the editors where your blog appeared so that I may respond accordingly?
Rita subsequently told me she published my comments (which is ok, though she didn’t ask if they were intended for publication) but I was not aware she was going to do so and would like to have submitted additional comments had I known they would be published. What I write to Rita isn’t the same as what I would say to readers.
This is to request that you publish the following response, in fairness, because I think the record demonstrates Rita's criticism (in terms of me and my program Full Measure) was not well-researched, and is factually incorrect. In fact, Rita’s blog seems to demonstrate the sort of bias that she seems to be objecting to, and appears to be malicious in nature.
I understand bloggers don’t have the same responsibility as do journalists (in my world) in terms of accuracy, fairness and ethics; but I do think when they provide inaccurate, out of context information and it appears in a journalism publication, there is an issue of fairness. Additionally, I didn't see any sort of disclaimer on Rita's article stating that it is an opinion piece or that it doesn’t necessarily represent the views of your publication (maybe it does?).
Here’s my response:
Blogger Rita Robison recently published information about me and my program (without contacting me) and, unfortunately, it contains false and misleading information.
Initially, Rita stated that I “announced” I was “going to do a program on how terrible government regulations are.” She then claimed I said “government regulations are the biggest problem in America.” (This is apparently her evidence for her thesis that I am a right-wing conservative who isn’t capable of doing fair reporting.)
None of her above assertions is true. And for the record, I certainly don’t think government regulations are the biggest problem in America. I also stated in the story that (obviously) “some rules are necessary.” I also stated “some regulations are needed.” The story examined the red tape (not just federal regulations, but local, state and corporate bureaucracy) that ties us up every day. It’s a story that most Americans can relate to, whether trying to get a social security card replaced or trying to get a county permit to run a booth at the fair. The story did not blame any political theory or party for unnecessary red tape: as one interviewee rightfully stated in my story, this is not a partisan issue; both parties have heaped their fair share of it on America.
Rita then continues on to say that, in her view, my report is not “unbiased journalism” and doesn’t tell “both sides of the story.” For the record, I’ve been in journalism for more than 35 years; have taught college journalism courses; served as lecturer to lawyers; received ethics recognition; and worked at four local location stations as well as national networks PBS, CNN and CBS. There is no journalism ethical or fairness requirement that would dictate that when I do a story on Americans’ frustration with “red tape” of all kinds, that I must devote part of the story to how good red tape is.
Rita then moves on to quote a liberal publication discussing me as being a “polarizing” figure when I quit CBS News, particularly for my “agenda” in terms of Barack Obama. Actually, a large part of the reason I quit CBS had to do with my objection to some of the ethical practices there that affected me and my work, which are likewise problems shared by my colleagues at other national print and television outlets. My ethical objections are only polarizing among those who defend (what I consider to be) unfair and unethical practices.
I understand the penchant of so many today to define reporting and reporters as either liberal or conservative. And much national reporting in the past three years has indeed devolved into ideological conflicts as “reporters” attempt to further a political view, advance talking points, or convince the audience of a particular point. In this sort of climate, when I do a story with certain whistleblowers or on certain topics, I may be called left-leaning. When I do reports on other topics, I may be called right-leaning. Do I therefore, personally, swing wildly back and forth between political philosophies from week to week, day by day?
No. I’m simply reporting stories that I hope resonate with many Americans on important or interesting topics. I especially like to report stories, facts and views that powerful interests are trying to censor or block.
When Obama was President and there were government scandals on his watch, political operatives and supporters sought to portray my reporting on them as some sort of vendetta against Obama rather than reporting of facts. But these same people had no objection when I reported on scandals that occurred on the watch of President Bush.
The truth is: the record will show my reporting is generally on non-political topics. To the extent I report on fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement—my specialities—that tie to powerful figures, the record will show I am an equal opportunity offender as I follow the facts.
Some examples include:
My most recent Emmy award was given for a story I reported on hypocrisy of Republican fundraising practices. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gop-freshmen-big-bucks-donors-hobnob-at-resort/
Here’s my story on the questionable “charity” run by a Republican member of Congress who resigned shortly after my story aired. (The story was praised by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7uLmwUhOtY
Here’s one of my three-part Emmy award winning reports on President Bush’s bait-and-switch regarding the bank bail-out:
Here’s some of my many Full Measure pieces relying on Democrat members of Congress:
For Profit Colleges
Rita makes the inflammatory statement that my reporting on red tape was “particularly egregious” and says that my “right leaning coverage on regulations” encourages “adults, and children, to hate their government.” In fairness, I urge free-thinking readers to look at the segment and see if they have a similar takeaway or not. I think only those who are the farthest, fringe, radical left on the scale (and subscribe to the talking points du jour from ideological groups) could conceivable see this story as “egregious,” politically-tinged, or something that encourages anybody to “hate their government.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIRVg-Q9VhA
Rita then moves on from her poorly-informed attack of my work to attack the company I work for: Sinclair.
As for her objection to "Must Run” that Sinclair sends stations it owns (another talking point being furthered by major national talk shows and publications courtesy of Sinclair’s competitors), Rita lacks the talking points and context to understand that the equivalent of “Must Runs” are sent by the national networks (much larger than Sinclair) every day to all of their stations in the form of programming they “Must Run.”
For example, every ABC station in the country "Must Run" ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos every Sunday. I like George and I like the program. But that’s an entire hour of programming led by a Democratic operative, Clinton campaign official and Obama supporter—who continued that job even when Hillary ran for President.
Another example: every time a CBS News news program used analyst and former Acting CIA Director Mike Morell without disclosing that he was — at the same time — working for a PR firm started by Hillary Clinton loyalists, it was a “Must Run” on all the CBS stations across the country. Unlike the traditional networks which provide their stations with hours of Must Run news programming each week; Sinclair provides a relative few minutes, plus Full Measure. Yet only Sinclair is criticized.
There’s certainly room for debate over “Must Runs” and their content, whether it’s Sinclair --or ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX. But to cast Sinclair as some sort of unique offenders is inaccurate and unfair.
Lastly, as if there were any doubt, Rita gives herself away when she declares that she and America have had “enough right-wing news with Fox News and various ‘shock jocks spewing forth slanted information to fit their political agenda and manipulate the public into believing right-wing propaganda.” She only objects to supposed right-wingers doing this. She doesn’t mind the left-wing shock jocks and slanted information. Or maybe she believes—or wants you to believe—there’s no such thing?
Much of the content from Rita’s blog aligns directly with the talking points being distributed by large corporate competitors to Sinclair Broadcasting as Sinclair is poised to buy another major company: Tribune. I’m all for debating the issues at hand but we must be mindful, as I discuss in my New York Times bestseller “The Smear,” that when we begin hearing and reading similar narratives, it just may be that special interests with financial ties are creating and distributing them.
Sarah, Please let me know how you plan to proceed.
Thank you and regards,