Would you consider changing your on the hour and half hour news from ABC?


ANSWER

Changing networks to move away from ABC is not an option for us. There are a number of reasons.

First let me respond to the belief held by you and a number of others that ABC News Radio displays a liberal bias. As you may know from my weekly feature called “You Tell Me” (www.ktbb.com/youtellme) I am a committed conservative. KTBB’s hospitality to conservative thought is well-evidenced by the fact that we are the home in East Texas for Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage.

If you believe that ABC displays a liberal bias, you join a fairly large chorus of others. But when you examine that belief closely, you will almost always find that the liberal bias charge pertains principally to the news product on the ABC Television Network, mainly their flagship broadcast ABC
World News with Charles Gibson.

I am not going to debate whether or not ABC News as seen on television is biased. Some very reasonable and well-informed people believe that it is. Others believe otherwise.

What I am going to dwell on is the product we get from ABC News Radio. The ABC News Radio newsroom is in a separate building in a separate part of town in New York from the ABC newsroom that serves the television network. ABC News Radio uses separate staff and separate facilities. On big stories, the
radio network and the television network will occasionally share some technical facilities and may exchange audio with each other. But for the vast majority of the time, radio news and television news each create their own products separate and apart from each other.

And in general, the ABC News Radio people are much less impressed with themselves than the people at the television network.

“But,” you say, “I hear Charles Gibson on your radio station every day.” Yes you do. Charles Gibson does the first two mintues (which is all we clear) of the top-of-the-hour newscast at 4 p.m. central time. This is largely a promotional effort on behalf of ABC News promoting the evening television network newscast “ABC World News.” The Charles Gibson radio newscast is written by the radio news desk and the copy is sent to Charles Gibson to read. I have seen the process first-hand at big news events that I have
covered such as the New Hampshire Primary and the two political conventions this summer. With respect to editorial content, the radio newscast featuring Charles Gibson’s voice remains a radio product.

My eyes are wide open on this. If you were to ask me to make a bet, I would bet that the majority of the staff in the New York and Washington newsrooms of ABC News Radio vote Democrat. I would bet everything that I own that Ann Compton, ABC News Radio White House correspondent since the administration of Gerald Ford, is a liberal Democrat as well.

Before George W. Bush was governor or president, he lived near my home in Dallas and we belonged to Highland Park United Methodist Church. I saw him every Sunday morning and over a period of several years, I struck up a casual friendship with him and consider him a friend to this day.

Thus, for the past eight years, I have listened to Ann Compton’s coverage of the Bush White House with a very critical ear. To my ear, Ann has been consummately professional. In nearly eight years of the administration of a man I voted for and count as a friend, I have not heard Ann step over the line once. If I had, I would not have hesitated to let the network hear from me.

I have worked literally elbow-to-elbow at major news events with the people you hear on the ABC Radio Network every day. I’m talking about Doug Limerick, Aaron Katersky, Vic Ratner, Steven Portnoy and others. I can tell you from personal experience that these people are professionals who are trying to do a professional job. They likely are liberal Democrats and they bring, as we all do, their personal biases with them to work. But I have never heard or observed any of them actively pursuing an agenda-driven
reporting bias.

On to a couple of other points…

Many who write or call us to complain about ABC suggest that we affiliate with the Fox News Radio Network.

That is not a practical option. With respect to radio, Fox News is little more than a brand name and a minimal top-of-the-hour news product. It offers none of the resources of ABC News Radio. A single example is ABC Newscall. This is a service to radio affiliates that makes audio cuts from the news available on a searchable database. It is updated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We make use of Newscall every morning in preparing the KTBB Morning News. It is something that we would never want to live without.

Fox News does not offer a comparable product.

When a major story breaks, ABC News Radio has people and equipment and resources developed over the past 50 years to cover it. Fox News Radio does not. On a major story, they can offer affiliates little other than re-purposed TV audio that is, by the very process of re-purposing it, delayed from real time.

A number of radio stations that left the CBS Radio Network and ABC News Radio to join Fox have quietly re-affliated with one or the other. They may still run the Fox newscast on the top of the hour, but if a big story breaks, these stations revert to ABC or CBS.

We at KTBB have been able to cover major stories such as the past four political conventions, the key anniveraries of 9/11, the election of Pope Benedict XVI and other stories because of the resources that ABC offers its affiliates. As an example, both ABC and CBS had “Radio Row” installations for affiliates at the political conventions. This is a service, however, that Fox News does not offer its affiliates.

As I said at the outset, I am a committed conservative. I believe that media bias is a serious and growing problem. I can make the argument that journalism in America as we have defined it for generations is in very serious jeopardy. I believe that the major TV networks and a number of large daily newspapers have wittingly or unwittingly tilted their coverage so severely as to have forfeited the public trust.

But, with that belief as background, I have not been unhappy with the product we have been getting from ABC News Radio.

Thank your for listening and offering your comments.

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