O'Reilly producer chases me down in Minneapolis; More big names call for serious media reform
I'm left feeling this way after a producer from O'Reilly's Fox News Channel show approached me following my appearance Friday at the National Conference for Media Reform. I shared a dais with folks from liberal watchdog groups such as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and Media Matters, talking about media criticism, how I do my job, and why such work is necessary to keep modern media honest. (See the Utne Reader's take on our session here)
After leaving the session -- rushing to catch an evening flight which would get me back to St. Petersburg by midnight -- a producer from the O'Reilly Factor came up to me, microphone in hand and camera rolling ambush journalism style. I am increasingly finding O'Reilly's attempts to intimidate others both amusing and ludicrous, and this producer's pointed questions about my attendance at this conference seemed just another attempt to get in the face of those who oppose him.
The producer asked if I felt the panel was balanced; I said I wished there was another mainstream journalist on the panel like me. He asked whether I felt my credibility was affected by the people I was surrounded by; I answered that my credibility was only affected by the answers I gave. He asked if I had an axe to grind against hosts such as O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck (I had said during the session that critiquing them was like going after low hanging fruit because their shows are so awful); I replied that I have a set of values that I clearly and repeatedly articulate for my readers, and these hosts violate those value quite often. (See the Neiman Watchdog's piece on our session here)
O'Reilly's goal here seemed crystal clear; he's going to denounce the conference as an unhinged gathering of lefties, attempting to muddy the reputation of anyone who would dare to attend. Given the conference's antipathy to corporate-owned media and the conservative punditocracy, I'm not surprised he's going after them. Interestingly, another producer has been following O'Reilly's guy around, documenting his attempts to ambush folks for a counter-video; he called me at the airport to ask about the encounter and I'm afraid I wasn't outraged enough for him. I just wished I had been as eloquent in reponding to the guy as Bill Moyers; watch his encounter with this guy here.
As I tried to explain during the session, I think a lot of the issues which disappoint people about media are rooted in economics. Whenever I give a lecture about media and its absurdities, I always start by drawing a big dollar sign on the chalkboard. I don't think the audience agreed with me, but I said Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch would put on a glossy version of lefty-news outlet Pacifica Radio if he thought it would make money. That remark and others like it even drew a little scorn from another blogger, but I remain convinced it is true -- which is why media reformers should look closer at economics and stop seeing it solely or mostly as an ideological feud.
Given that the producer also accosted big names such as Bill Moyers, I doubt I'll make it off OReilly's cutting room floor. But I'm interested to see if he'll use any of the footage on his Monday show, and whether he'll repeat the producer's inaccurate claim that I have turned down numerous requests to appear on his program. Funny enough, after this guy ambushed a friend and fellow TV critic Joanne Ostrow when she refused to appear on O'Reilly's show, HE refused to comment on his actions to other journalists.
Looking at some of the video and news releases bandied about regarding speeches from Moyers and Dan Rather, it looks like i missed some good stuff on Saturday. Click on the video below to watch Rather outline how journalists made those who dissented from the administration's line in the run up to the Iraq war look like isolated cranks instead of a group with a connected, valid line of reasoning.