Saturday, May 05, 2007

Bad News: Bill O'Reilly vs Lou Dobbs

It’s time for the first annual Twisted Quill Award to the world’s worst journalist.

Bill O’Reilly may look like an odds-on favorite, with some Old-Guard sentiment for Bob Novak, but Lou Dobbs is making a run at them.

On 60 Minutes tomorrow, Dobbs will tell Lesley Stahl the U.S. could deport all 12 million illegal aliens if it “sets its mind” to doing so.

Asked whether he can still be called a journalist after all his opinionated jawboning, Dobbs bristles: "The idea that a reporter should be disqualified because he or she actually cares, actually isn't neutral about the well-being of the country and its people, that's absurd."

What’s truly absurd is Dobbs’ reinvention of himself from a second-rate business-news flack into the Messiah of the
Middle-Class, a rabble-rouser against illegal aliens, provoking more dissension over a serious national issue than any politician in sight--all in the name of journalism.

No less appalling is that CBS, which fired Imus for being offensively racist, has signed Dobbs as a “special contributor” to its Early Show and is now showcasing him on the network’s most respected news program.

This follows CNN’s augmenting Dobbs’ nightly rants as a prime-time anchor with “specials” to do more of the same. Forgotten is the fact that he left CNN in 2000 in a huff after the network president cut away from him to coverage of President Bill Clinton consoling parents at Columbine, which Dobbs argued was not newsworthy.

Bill O’Reilly’s antics are preachments to the converted, while Dobbs is oversimplifying a complex issue that deserves serious, balanced reporting.

My choice of Dobbs as the worst puts me at odds with Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times’ respected columnist, who supports his argument with an academic study that persuasively pairs O’Reilly with a 1930s’ demagogue of the air waves, Father Coughlin.

Both, the study concludes, divide the world into “villains, victims and the virtuous,” while using fear to demonize those who disagree with them.

That shoe certainly fits Bill O’Reilly, but Lou Dobbs may be walking a longer way in it.

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