Can journalists be objective?
Cynthia McFadden is an anchor and correspondent for ABC News who currently co-anchors Nightline and Primetime. Recently named co-anchor of “Primetime” on ABC News, she has been at that network since 1994, when she joined as a legal correspondent. She became a correspondent for “PrimeTime Live” in 1996, and in 2005 she was named co-anchor of ABC News “Nightline.
McFadden has conducted numerous interviews with politicians and cultural figures from Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to Madonna. She was the legal editor and narrator of the ABC News documentary series “In the Jury Room,” the first television program ever to show jury deliberations in a death penalty case. The hour-long documentary she co-anchored on school integration 50 years after Brown v. Board of Ed has won several awards, including first place documentary from the New York Association of Black Journalists; in 2001-02, for her reporting on 9/11, McFadden and her ABC team received a Dupont Award. McFadden's other awards include the George Foster Peabody Award, an Oversees Press Club Award, six Cine Golden Eagles, the Ohio State Award, two Silver Gavels from the American Bar Association, the Grand Award at the New York Festival and the Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival.
Cynthia McFadden has appeared as a guest on numerous talk and news shows, including 20/20 and The Charlie Rose Show. Before joining ABC, from 1984-1991, she was the executive producer of Fred Friendly's Media and Society seminars, based at Columbia University, and she became an anchor and senior producer at Courtroom Television in '91, the year of that network's inception. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Bowdoin College, and received her law degree from Columbia University.
Question: Can journalists be objective?
Cynthia McFadden: I rarely try to tell anyone what to think, though I think it’s just ludicrous for journalists to say, “I don’t have an opinion.” We all have opinions. We’re all dripping with opinion. The truth for someone in my position is, “Can I be fair? Can I be fair in what I’m saying?” which is quite different from . . . One of my favorite people in this business, Howard Stringer, who I never worked for. But when he was President of CBS News, he once said something to me that I think we should all remember, which is: “Cynthia, beware the myth of evenhandedness.""What’s that?” I’d say. He said, “You know you’re gonna do a profile of me, so you find . . . you line up five people who love me and five people who hate me. You put all that garbage on the air and you say, ‘That’s the truth." Well of course that’s not the truth. Maybe we should love him. Maybe we should hate him. Maybe it is something more complex than that. But my job as a journalist is to try to sort out good information from bad information, and present that – which doesn’t mean that I don’t have an opinion. It does mean that I try to be fair in presenting the information that I am able to gather.
Recorded on: Jul 7 2007
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