Former network news reporter: My network didn’t want to hold government accountable
Sharyl Attkisson has bravely spoken out about her experiences with editorial bias at CBS News over the past couple of years, but … it wasn’t Attkisson who spoke to the Des Moines Register’s Courtney Crowder. This time the whistleblower is NBC News’ Lisa Myers, who is currently on the lecture circuit discussing her experiences as a journalist. Myers left NBC a year ago after clashing with Brian Williams over his refusal to air reports that he considered “divisive,” but that Myers considered part of the job of news organizations to keep government accountable. One of Myers’ spiked stories was that Barack Obama knew his “you can keep your plan” promise was a lie as far back as 2010, which ended up on NBC News’ website rather than on air.
With that context, it’s not difficult to grasp what Myers told Crowder in Iowa (via Dylan Byers):
Q: What is the state of TV journalism today?
I am going to talk about the deterioration in the quality of journalism you see on TV. I think the primary mission of journalism is to hold the powerful accountable, be they in government or corporate America. There is less and less interest in network television today holding the White House or any other part of government accountable. I fear there is a calculation that the audiences they are trying to reach don’t care that much about the serious news. I think most of the political coverage these days has all the depth of Twitter.
I also worry that journalists today appear to have chosen sides when it comes to political coverage. I think you see that in the sagging approval numbers of TV news over the last few years. We’ve seen trust in the media hit its lowest level ever in 2013 or 2014 surveys and I think the lack of depth and the feeling that too many journalists have chosen sides has caused viewers to question whether we are giving it to them straight and whether we are making a politically balanced presentation.
Brian Williams appears to have chosen sides, and didn’t want to hold Obama administration accountable, even for its lies. I doubt that Myers is solely taking aim at Williams here, though. Gabriel Sherman reported in his New York Magazine piece that Myers tried to engage with NBC News executives in a series of “scathing memos” about the editorial bias on NBC’s Nightly News broadcast — to no avail, apparently.
Instead of taking an objective approach to serious issues, Myers instead suggests that the entire broadcast-news industry has given up on that kind of reporting in favor of frothy entertainment:
Q: Do you believe there is a place for entertainment journalism on TV?
Of course, but you do not see the kind of in-depth substantive policy pieces or investigations nearly as often as you used to. The stories get shorter and shorter and the sound bites get shorter and shorter. Look, there is a place for celebrity news, for feel good stories, all those things have a legitimate place in various newscasts, but it should not always be at the expense of the more-in-depth stories or investigations that networks used to. I am speaking industry-wide, not speaking about any specific network.
Well, that’s a debatable point too. They’ve certainly given up on it over the last six years. If we see a Republican president in 2017, who wants to bet that hard-hitting investigative reporting will make a sudden comeback on the alphabet networks? That is, if anyone’s still watching them by that point.