Mike Bellah

To Network News Anchors
April 2004
Dear Dan, Peter and Tom,

I know you’ve been wondering where viewers like me have gone. 

I’ve read some of the theories put forth in recent studies, and I need to set the record straight. 

We aren’t just too busy; we haven’t stopped watching nightly news. 

No, most of us—people you might label conservatives—have stopped watching because you don’t present our perspective anymore. It wasn’t that long ago that we welcomed you into our homes every evening, and, whether the news was negative (the downing of PanAm 103) or positive (the success of a space shuttle mission), we felt united in the experience. 

As Americans of different political persuasions, we grieved or celebrated together.

Of course, there were controversial issues even then (the abortion debate, for instance), but we still felt represented. It seemed to us that you strove for objectivity. Even though we knew you favored the more liberal side of the issue, you covered both perspectives. We appreciated that and respected you for it.

But then came the election of 2000 and the Florida recount, and, from the perspective of people like me, everything changed. Your stories led with the liberal point of view: “The Gore vote is ‘undercounted’ in Florida.” “The U.S. Supreme Court ‘gives’ the election to George W. Bush.” If our view was presented at all, it came from an interview with a conservative wacko who made us look foolish and out-of-touch. 

No longer was your political commentary reserved for the end of newscasts and clearly marked as commentary; it permeated the hard news itself: a raised eyebrow here, a grimace there.

 Stories we thought were important (the Democrat effort to throw out the votes of our soldiers stationed overseas) were either left out or buried.

So, to get the whole news, we found other sources: The Fox News Channel, The Drudge Report on the Internet, talk radio. 

Then came 9/11, a tragedy that seemed to bring us together again. In the days following that horrible attack, we were not Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives; we were just Americans. We all resolved to comfort the survivors and to punish the perpetrators. We watched you again in the war in Afghanistan. Though you still presented a more liberal slant, you strove for fairness, and, more importantly, you seemed to celebrate the success of America, even if it came under a conservative administration. 

But the war in Iraq and now a presidential election year has changed all of that; in fact, to people like me the network news bias seems far worse now than in the aftermath of the Florida recount. 

Your disdain for this president and his administration is no longer veiled, which threatens to further distance you from conservative viewers. 

More importantly, it seems to distance you from your own liberal values. 

You are now in the awkward position of supporting an angry white male connected to the intelligence community over an articulate black female who spent most of her professional life in education. You give more air time to haters of an American president (at home and abroad) than you do to the haters of America who perpetrated 9/11 and, even now, are planning further attacks. 

You say you support our troops, but ask the troops if they feel supported. We have countless polls testing the popularity of the president; let’s do one to gauge the trustworthiness of network news among our nation’s bravest. 

I’m not asking you to shelve your objectivity. Errors, even conservative errors, need to be reported. Just show some balance. The greatest enemy of America is not President Bush, and, however imperfectly, his administration is working night and day to keep this nation free, including people like you who often make it look bad.

In short, Dan, Peter and Tom, we haven’t left you; you’ve left us. Come back to us and we’ll come back to you.

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