There has been some brouhaha in recent days over CNN's James Carville and Paul Begala serving as unpaid advisers to the Kerry campaign.
There has been a chorus of complainers suggesting that Begala and Carville should leave their posts at CNN until after the election. Some media critics contend that having them advise Kerry detracts from CNN's credibility and that it's a violation of journalistic ethics.
I think these critics are missing the point by focusing on politics rather than the real issue—honesty, disclosure, and keeping your trust.
Begala and Carville are identified as taking the left or liberal position. You know where they stand. They are being honest with you. Our own Joe Scarborough was prominently featured at a Bush fundraiser recently. Again, I think it's not a problem— he's identified on the air as a Republican, a former Republican congressman. There is no concern he's being mistaken for an objective newsreader.
Same applies to Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes over at Fox. Why should anyone care that Hannity helped raise money for Republicans or if Colmes does the same for Democrats?
Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly writes that this is evidence of the “collapse of CNN's ethical standards.” That if he, O'Reilly, “signed on with Bush/Cheney 2004 the media mob would have stormed the Fox castle.”
That's true but only because O'Reilly says he's objective. He bristles anytime he's accused of being conservative or as he puts it, “one of the right-wing bullyboys from Fox.” For him to advise Bush would belie his assertions to his viewers.
Journalistic efforts are designed to keep your trust, to avoid misleading you. It's for that reason I try to tell you my take at the top of just about every opinion-based story. I want you to know where I stand to allow you to better assess the story we're discussing.
Maybe I give you more credit than some do.
I believe you know where James Carville and Sean Hannity stand on the issues. They parade their bias proudly. I'm afraid that politics and media rivalry are leading many to misunderstand bias.
As long as you're honest and up front about it, bias is really just an opinion.