I was shocked yesterdy while watching Chicago's public television (WTTW) news program, Chicago Tonight. They reported on a local appearance by John O'Neill, during which he did his song and dance smear of John Kerry. Chicago Tonight is typically pretty good; this report was awful.
The only refutation of clips of O'Neill's accusations was clips of a man who served with Kerry and stood up at the appearance to accuse O'Neill of lies. At no point did Chicago Tonight attempt to report on the accuracy of O'Neill's smear.
I had to write a letter to WTTW. Here it is:
To Chicago Tonight:
Although I enjoy your show very much and typically find it a great source of local news, I was extremely disappointed by yesterday's (10/05/04) coverage of John O'Neill and his almost entirely false screed, "Unfit for Command." I am saddened to say that Chicago Tonight's story followed the spineless formula of "he-said, she-said" that is all too common in today's tired and seemingly lazy journalism. The John O'Neill segment showed clips of a speech in which he made egregious accusations against Senator John Kerry. Rather than making any effort to fact check O'Neill, your reporter appears to have merely waited for an audience member at the O'Neill appearance to attempt to rebut the accusations.
Who's right? No one watching your report could possibly know! The mere fact that O'Neill is has accused Senator Kerry, who is running for the highest office in our nation, of lying and cowardice is not news. It is your responsibility in reporting to inform the public. That means putting a serious effort into making sure that any allegations are verified. You did nothing of the sort.
The record of O'Neill and his group is replete with lies and inconsistencies. The public record refutes almost everything O'Neill has claimed and clearly shows that Senator assuredly deserves every single medal he was awarded for his service in Vietnam. Here's but one source you could have used, that of Bob Somerby's "The Daily Howler":
I would urge that in the future, Chicago Tonight rise above he-said, she-said reporting to fulfill its role in acting in the public's good.
How could a reporter, after all the fact checking that's been done in the past month, go back to he-said, she-said?
I thought we had it pretty good here in a big market like Chicago. This report was very disappointing. I can only surmise that this is going on all over the place.