Monday, November 21, 2005

Leaning Left with Public TV’s “Chicago Tonight.”

Slight revisions made on Tuesday at 11:30 am
“WTTW could use an Ombudsman to deal with liberal bias and conflict of interest issues at the Chicago Public TV station. It would be a full time job.”
You know those arguments we hear about how preposterous it is for anyone to suggest that PBS or the local Chicago Public TV station might be biased to the left.

Then WTTW’s [Chicago Public TV] Chicago Tonight [“CT”] rolls out its lead major segment tonight [following a brief report on today's delivery of fed money for O'Hare expansion] with a discussion of the current national controversy about how we got into the war in Iraq; did many, if not all, Democrats who supported the war in Iraq have access to intelligence data that was comparable to that viewed by the Bush Administration; the state of the War; and should and will the U. S. withdraw large numbers, if not all, of its troops from Iraq, soon.

Eddie Arruza, a relatively new CT correspondent moderated. One of his two guests was 9th Cong. Dist. U. S. Representative Jan Schakowsky [D-Chicago], who has been against the War from the get go and who called, about a year ago, for the virtual immediate withdrawal of all U. S. troops from Iraq. [For partial transcripts of our show with Cong. Schakowsky and to read more about Cong. Schakowsky and her Democratic leadership contest, to link to the webcast edition of our show with Cong. Schakowsky,please go here, here and here.

To balance Congresswoman Schakowsky, apparently, was Jim Warren, Chicago Tribune Deputy Managing Editor, Features. Warren, from what I know of him, is not as far to the left as Jan, but still does not appear to be an arch supporter, if a supporter at all, of the War in Iraq.

How would this be balance? What was CT thinking? Could CT not find a Republican Congressman, or candidate, who is a strong, articulate supporter of the War to appear opposite Cong. Schakowsky. Congressman Mark Steven Kirk [R-Highland Park, 10th CD], Congressman Henry Hyde [R- Addison, 6th CD] and Republican Primary Candidate and State Senator Peter Roskam [R- Wheaton, 6th CD] are just a few of the names and articulate voices that CT should have tried. I would hope to find out if they did.

If scheduling was an issue for the aforementioned individuals, could CT not identify an articulate, conservative voice, perhaps not in Congress or running for Congress, who supported the military effort, as strongly as Jan opposed it? Anyway, if they couldn’t find someone fitting that description among the three million, or so, people in the area, due to scheduling problems, I certainly didn’t hear them say it. Oh yes, CT showed some clips of President Bush and Veep Cheney. That would be balance? Why not wait a night until they could get the balance right. Better than going out on the road with a vehicle that was tilting to the left.

My call to WTTW’s Arruza this evening-- after I watched this segment—has not yet been returned. I will be interested to see if it is and if Mr. Arruza can explain if and how he views tonight’s segment as “fair and balanced.”

Of course, none of this should be viewed as a criticism of guests Schakowsky and Warren. They were both articulate, thoughtful proponents for their points of view. And, indeed, Warren, based on what I heard tonight, might have been a good panelist to be in the middle, not on the right. It is, of course, up to the station and the show’s producer to identify and recruit guests, who taken together, provide balance. Obviously, that did not happen here tonight. And, that is not an aberration for Chicago Tonight, as I have written, from time to time.

WTTW could use an Ombudsman to deal with liberal bias and conflict of interest issues at the Chicago Public TV station. It would be a full time job.

Chicago Tonight, which airs Monday through Thursday evening at 7:00 pm, on Ch. 11, is scheduled to repeat tonight’s episode at midnight, 1:30 am and 4:30 am on Ch. 11 throughout the Chicago Metro Area. The segment with Arruza, Schakowsky and Warren starts about nine minutes into the show and continues for about twelve minutes.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at