Saturday, January 19, 2008

Law Requires News Commentators To Declare Party Politics

It's not really a law but it should be: Moeursalen's Law--Support it!

I like to keep an eye on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street with Erin Burnett and Mark Haynes. Sometimes I have used both eyes on Erin Burnett and pretended Mark Haynes isn’t there, even though he’s an entertaining and amiable grouch. I like the other members of the CNBC crew, the ones who specialize in finance and economics; I’ve learned quite a bit from watching. I don’t really follow individual stocks except that you can’t watch the show without knowing something of what the IBMs and the Comcasts are doing,as well as the Ford Motor Companies, Chrysler and GM.

The one thing I noticed is how concerned they are with integrity and keeping in line with SEC regulations. Whether recommending or disdaining particular stocks or investment sectors, the economic pundits always follow rules of disclosure. This means that the experts who are called upon to comment on investments must reveal their own portfolio interests. The purpose is clear, of course, and that purpose is to prevent stock manipulation. Certainly, one can’t help be affected by the ups and downs of the market.

But now I’d like you to consider some legislation I’ve proposed called Moeursalen’s Law. Moeursalen’s Law is designed to prevent market manipulation of the “news product.” Clearly, a Chris Matthews or an Andrea Mitchell favors Hillary Clinton over a Barak Obama and Keith Olbermann prefers anyone to a President Bush, but what’s the harm of declaring it? By the same token, people like Fred Barnes (who often appears on the Fox network) seems to be a supporter of Republican positions in nearly all cases that I’ve observed. Being a television pundit these days is much different than it was in the days of the Big Three Networks when all of the newscasters tended to be center-left and there was no pretense of “fairness.”

With so many media factions competing for attention these days, the biases are obvious so why not declare them? Certainly, news people vote just like the rest of us and they will vote for one candidate or another. There can be no purer evidence of news bias than when a newscaster votes for one candidate over the other. Moreover, newscasters have an unusual burden of hiding their personal preferences while delivering the news, even while the public identifies the bias in most cases.

Does Chris Matthews really fear that people will stop listening to him if they know he will vote for a Hillary rather than a John or a Mitt?

What about Mika Brezinski? Her father was a Carter advisor and is still active in the politics of the liberal establishment. Wouldn’t she keep her audience if she acknowledged her preference for Hillary, or Barak, or John Edwards over Romney, McCain, or Giuliani? If you’re wondering why I didn’t list “Huckabee” it is because Mika has indicated she prefers Huckabee to be the Republican candidate for two reasons:

1) Huckabee fits into the stereotypical molded outlines fitting her vision of the ideal Republican candidate. Huckabee is the “religious right”, a free-spending fiscal conservative, an avuncular and staid representative of a male status quo.

2) As she sees it, Huckabee will be easiest of all the leading Republican candidates to beat because there will be no competing issues for Hillary, the candidate she clearly favors.

So I’m urging my readers to sign in the comments section if they support Moeursalen’s Law. Since the FCC rules the airwaves on behalf of “the people”, let them know that you favor full disclosure of the voting records of the people who give you the news. Keith Olbermann, Shawn Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh won’t mind. Why should Andrea Mitchell, Dan Rather, or George Stephanopoulus?

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