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Monday, November 2, 2009

He's "...a news guy"

First, I want to state that I don't know Steve Corbett, I have never met Steve Corbett, and I don't (often) listen to Steve Corbett on WILK radio. As far as I am concerned, he's a stand-up guy who is just as entitled to his opinion as am I. Speaking of opinions, there is however a sticking point I want to reference that does bother me when I think about Steve Corbett.

On one hand, if you listen to WILK for any length of time, you will no doubt hear some of the station's promotional spots; one of those spots includes Steve Corbett saying (among other things) "...I'm a news guy!". I've also heard Steve Corbett on the 'Nancy and Kevin' show talk about how they "do hard news"; to his credit, his counterpart in the morning, Kevin Lynn, seems to shun the notion that they (WILK's opinion shows) are in the "hard news" business. Clearly though, Steve Corbett views himself as being a news reporter.

On the other hand, we have pieces like this [Link Here] which in my mind have nothing to do with "hard news" and everything to do with opinions. Launch the link and read the article. This is Steve Corbett telling people who to vote for, as evidenced by quotes such as:

"In Lackawanna County, two stale incumbent judges want to be retained.

Vote no."

The above doesn't read like "hard news" to me. Throughout the article, Steve Corbett mostly notes who he is going to vote for (with phrases such as "
Gartley’s place is on the bench."), but other times he is far more directional. "Vote no" seems more like a demand than a request.

So what's the harm? Both Steve Corbett and Steve Albert are both entitled to opinions, right? Hell, I hand out opinions in this space all the time. Yet I do not, however, claim to be a "news guy". I do not claim to report "hard news". No, I'm just a pension guy with lots of opinions and fairly good typing skills. Steve Corbett, however, does claim to be a "news guy". Along with that statement come more than a few tough questions, such as:
  1. When does someone like Steve Corbett cease being a reporter and start being an advocate?
  2. How do we know that Steve Corbett (the reporter) doesn't skew the news based on the activities of Steve Corbett (the advocate)?
  3. How can Steve Corbett be sure himself that his opinions don't skew his "hard news" reporting? Maybe he doesn't actually care if one bleeds into the other. Maybe that's his intent.
  4. At the end of the day, isn't there supposed to be a wall of sorts between reporting the news and issuing editorial opinions? In the financial world, we have this concept of a Chinese Wall to prevent obvious conflicts of interest, but yet such a separation doesn't seem to exist when it comes to the news.

Now the cheap-n-easy retort to all of the above is something like...

"Come on, people are smart enough to know when they are being given news and when they are being given an opinion"

...which always reminds me of the late Paul Harvey. Why? Paul Harvey was (in)famous for weaving commercials into his newscasts, hoping (in my humble opinion) that the millions who listened to him would mistake, for example, the latest miracle vitamin cure commercial with real announcements about real cures. It just doesn't sit right with me, precisely because some people are not smart enough to distinguish the news with a carefully crafted opinion piece.

In the end, it all comes down to intellectual honesty. I know, that's probably too heady a concept for a blog (and down right ironic for the Internet), but it's the best two words I can think of that encapsulate the notion that we all know that there is a difference between reporting hard news and issuing hard opinions. We all know it, but yet some want us to think that such a line either doesn't exist, shouldn't exist or doesn't matter. I think it does, but then again I'm just a pension guy.


Gort said...

Corbett and Rush are very similar. Sometimes I think that either one of them says something say something they don't believe what they say. But it's good for ratings.

Stephen Albert said...

I think they are similar in their act...both USE the news as a mechanism to profess an agenda. Steve Corbett though seems to go to extra efforts (his bumpers, constant references to his prior journalism career, etc.) to make people believe that he is someone acting in the capacity of a reporter during his show, a concept that simply does not hold water. Even newspapers...which have opinion pieces every day...separate reporters from their editorial boards. Steve Corbett wants his listeners to believe that he can somehow be BOTH the reporter AND the editorial board.

Anonymous said...

He Steve,

Did you know that Corbett is Catholic? Did you know he practices? Did you know he taught CCD?

I nearly fell off my chair when I heard that! I assumed that becasue he worked for Comedy Central and with John Stewart that he was a liberal atheist/agnostic/secularist.

Wow did I learn something! I was pleasently surprised!

Father Dave Bechtel

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, I made a mistake, but I cannot delete my post--

I was thinking of Steve Colbert.


Father Dave Bechtel

Stephen Albert said...

Father Bechtel...Next thing I know you will be quoting 'Lady GaGa' lyrics! Besides, I thought Priests were supposed to be above all this popular culture nonsense!

Anonymous said...

I don't know where you got the idea that priests are "above" all this pop-culture nonsense.

Ordination is not magic. We don't magically become superhumans upon ordination.

I still watch TV Steve. I liked Comedy Central before I got ordained (at least some things on it) and that did not change after I got ordained, though I must admit I don't watch it much these days. Lately I watch the Fox News Channel, Discovery, Medical Channel, History Channel and the Science Channel. I like TVLND also, especially when they show the reruns of Married With Children and the Golden Girls.

Dallas is one of my all time favorite shows. When I was in seminary I used to faithfully watch the reruns on TNN.

Father Dave Bechtel

Stephen Albert said...

"I don't know where you got the idea that priests are "above" all this pop-culture nonsense."


Ten years of being a Altar Boy and 4 years in Catholic high school. :-)

Truth be told, I'm not much of a TV watcher myself.