Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn has led the charge to strip government funds from public broadcasting, saying that outlets like PBS and NPR are biased against conservative politics and that the news shows are popular enough after 40 years to survive on advertising revenues. Surveys have consistently shown however that, in the era of overheated cable news, Americans like the product that the not-for-profit business model has delivered, ranking PBS, for example, the most trusted institution in the nation. This week the PBS Newshour was awarded the prestigious Walter Cronkite Award for political television coverage. Gwen Ifill accepted the award in Los Angeles as PBS’s cable news counterparts hosted “birther” conspiracy theorists and sent hundreds of reporters each to London to cover the royal wedding, many more than they sent to Japan to cover the natural and nuclear disasters last month and many more than they have stationed in the powder keg Middle East.
The Cronkite prize panel of judges selected the Newshour for its “thorough and balanced” coverage of key midterm electoral races. The judges praised PBS newspeople Ifill and Judy Woodruff for “focusing on the issues, talking with real voters and letting the candidates explain themselves.”
“At this point in my career, I’ve worked for newspapers, at a commercial network and now at Public Broadcasting, where like clockwork, we are accused by those on the right and those on the left of bias,” said Ifill. “Too many of these critics don’t actually watch or listen to what we do.” She added that PBS more than earns its pay, partly for seeding the news industry with a baseline of reliable material to work from.
“We are justifiably proud of the work we do and are convinced that even in a drastically shifting media environment there is a hunger for the work we do.
“When I visit college campuses, students tell me ‘I only watch Jon Stewart’ and I tell them: ‘Jon Stewart watches me.’
“Not to worry. Walter Cronkite once told me he watched the PBS Newshour every night, too.
“That’s because journalism, and even faux journalism, can only flourish with a firm foundation.”
The four award winning PBS pieces were produced by Mary Jo Brooks, Terence Burlij, and Sarah Clune.