Thursday, May 29, 2008

NBC owes Ashleigh Banfield an apology - and back pay!

And Phil Donahue, too!

Ashleigh Banfield, the reporter who made wearing glasses fashionable, was basically dumped by MSNBC for daring to make a public speech critical of the way reporters were covering the war. Given all the current hype over Scott McClellan's new book, I think NBC owes Banfield and Donahue an apology -- and back pay!

In 2003, Banfield was asked to speak at Kansas State University, as a participant in the school's Landon Lecture series. Her speech touched on many issues, with probably the most controversial being the "sanitized" coverage of the war.

You didn't see where those bullets landed. You didn't see what happened when the mortar landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me. There are horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism or was this coverage? There is a grand difference between journalism and coverage, and getting access does not mean you're getting the story... . [...]

As a journalist I'm often ostracized just for ... going on television and saying, "Here's what the leaders of Hezbullah are telling me and here's what the Lebanese are telling me and here's what the Syrians have said about Hezbullah. Here's what they have to say about the Golan Heights." Like it or lump it, don't shoot the messenger, but invariably the messenger gets shot.

We hired somebody on MSNBC recently named Michael Savage. Some of you may know his name already from his radio program. He was so taken aback by my dare to speak with Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade about why they do what they do, why they're prepared to sacrifice themselves for what they call a freedom fight and we call terrorism. He was so taken aback that he chose to label me as a slut on the air. [...]

How can you discuss, how can you solve anything when attacks from a mere radio flak is what America hears on a regular basis, let alone at the government level? I mean, if this kind of attitude is prevailing, forget discussion, forget diplomacy, diplomacy is becoming a bad word.
Banfield goes on to talk about the "FOX news effect" and how by having an "agenda" in their coverage they were able to take viewers away from CNN and MSNBC. Marketing replaced reporting. A memo that I'm sure was meant to be confidential leaked about why Donahue was fired. MSNBC didn't want an "anti-war" voice while FOX was waving the flag every night, calling anyone who opposed the war unpatriotic.

I'm hoping that I will have a future in news in cable, but not the way some cable news operators wrap themselves in the American flag and patriotism and go after a certain target demographic, which is very lucrative. You can already see the effects, you can already see the big hires on other networks, right wing hires to chase after this effect, and you can already see that flag waving in the corners of those cable news stations where they have exciting American music to go along with their war coverage.
As responsible citizens I think we must question the actions of our government, and our media. The Fourth Estate has great power, and with that power should go a responsibility to serve the best interests of the people. It can do that by presenting all sides of an issue, and then letting the people decide.

When a news outlet bangs the war drum, we need to call them on it. And when it jumps on the bandwagon for a particular candidate, we need to call them on that as well.

MSNBC's Banfield Slams War Coverage
Ashleigh Banfield: "Don't Shoot The Messenger"
Commentary: The Surrender Of MSNBC
Battling For The Soul Of Donahue


Mary Ellen said...

I always wondered what happened to Ashleigh Banfield. I wasn't keeping up that much at the time because I was so sick of the Bush propaganda, I quit watching MSNBC. She was one of the few that I really liked.

When I read that part where Savage called her a slut, it was just a reminder of how women in the media and elsewhere are subject to sexist attacks and they are left unprotected. If she had called Savage a prick (which she would never have done, she's a real professional), she would have been fired on the spot for that very reason.

I liked Phil Donahue, too. I wonder if they'll interview him now that all this has come out.

I agree, both of them should be re-hired (if they want to) and rewarded back pay.

Dean Wormer said...

Well said.

Banfield is a great reporter of the courageous mold that we always though of when it came to journalism. People who were willing to put their lives on the line for a story and who recognized that knowledge, even of what our enemies believe, isn't going to kill us.

Donahue is a great example of the same thing in that he went against the prevailing pro-war mood of the country and, even though his ratings were good, he got tossed aside.

I believe he produced a movie called Body of War about Iraq vets that I've really wanted to see on the big screen but it hasn't shown locally.

Savage is an ass.

Mary Ellen said...

Gosh, I hope john j doesn't show up on this thread and force BAC to disable the comments. He's turning into such a troll.

FranIAm said...

This is a great post BAC- really great and so true.

The media is pathetic, truly pathetic.

Of course, I am not genius but when NBC was purchased by GE in the 80's I could see the dangers of a news organization owned by a large corporation that was also a big military contractor.

BAC said...

Mary Ellen - sorry about the comments thing, John J just drives me crazy sometimes.

Dean - thanks! I would like to see Phil's film, too.

Fran - we can all thank Ronald Reagan for the media mess. Deregulation was the worst thing that could have ever happened to the media, and so many other areas. When I was studying broadcasting in college, there was a limit on the number of television and radio stations that could be owned by one corporation. That's pretty much gone, and now five corporations own everything. The results is they've turned the news division over to "entertainment" -- so there really is no real news coverage any longer. It's all market driven. And I think it's very dangerous.


FranIAm said...

Oh yes, that was my major and of course my life's work from 1979 until 2007.

It is related to Mr. He Is' job as well, so I know the evils of that deregulation.

I lived it professionally and I now live it personally.

BAC said...

Fran - my degree is in broadcasting, and I worked in the industry for the first 15 years out of college. It just pains me to see what has happened to a medium that could do such good.


Tracy Russell said...

I love Ashleigh. I Truly wish I was walking my dog in the park that day! That would of been my soul mate because Ashleigh Banfield is 100 percent women and the guy that she divorced sorry about your misfortune,how can you let such a beautiful woman go,and me I would die to have a smart intelligent beautiful woman like Ashley Banfield. From-the day that I've seen Ashley Banfield 20 years ago I have always thought she is one of the absolute most gorgeous women in the World that I have ever seen I would love to one day sit down and just have a conversation with her because she's intelligent and she has two beautiful children as well thanks Ashley for the work that you do not just on TV but also around the world. Tracy Russell