'The Dumbest Survey I've Seen in Months'

J$P Instant Transcript! Who is a journalist? Eric Burns tries to make sense out of a recent poll.

From The Big Story with John Gibson, June 14 2005:

JOHN GIBSON [FOX NEWS]: Seeing is apparently believing when it comes to defining journalism in America. A new study shows that the public has a different perception of who is a journalist than those actually in the business. And who can blame them, when actors like Sean Penn take on the role of reporter? He is on assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle in Iran, just ahead of Iran's Presidential elections. Joining us now to talk about it, Eric Burns, host of Fox NewsWatch. Put this full screen up there, Eric, so people could see what the result--

ERIC BURNS [FOX NEWS]: I can't put it up, John. That's got to be your control room people.

GIBSON: And I'm doing that as you can see. 79% said Peter Jennings is one, only 19% said George Will is one, and in between some pretty famous names.

BURNS: This is the dumbest survey I've seen in months. I don't know what it's supposed to prove. That people don't know what a journalist is? That the definitions are changing? Is "journalist" a pejorative term today? John, you know people don't seem to like journalists very much. So maybe by Peter Jennings getting 79% people are saying we don't trust Jennings at all, because he's a journalist. I have not idea what they're trying to do.

GIBSON: By that reasoning, when 40% said Bill O'Reilly is, 60% obviously think higher of him.

BURNS: Well, if that reasoning is correct. But that's one of the problems with this survey. Look, essentially, if you take away people who present news without thinking, which is to say a lot of local news anchors, you have basically three kinds of journalists. You have people like you who elicit news by interviewing. You have people who present opinions, either by writing or speaking. And you have people who present facts, either by writing or speaking. If you are in one of those three categories, no matter what a poll like that says, you're a journalist. I understand rating these people on the basis of how good you think they are, but they're all journalists.

GIBSON: But does it make sense to think that really that list reflects who's famous and who's not. Peter Jennings is up at the top, George Will is at the bottom. I'd say that Jennings is way more famous than George Will.

BURNS: Yeah, but where's Rush Limbaugh? He's at 27%, so he has to be fairly near the bottom. Now isn't he almost as famous as Jennings?

GIBSON: He is as famous.

BURNS: So there's, see, both of us here, in trying to analyze this, whatever we say, we're going to find a flaw because this is very hard to figure out.

GIBSON: But Limbaugh might be one who would deny being a journalist, who would disavow.

BURNS: You know, I read a quote of his, and he seemed to be very untroubled by the findings, so maybe he has at least mentally already begun to disavow the findings.

GIBSON: Does it say anything, though, about how the public regards the news business, or the so-called journalism business?

BURNS: No, but a lot of other findings do. As you know, people don't like us these days. Another very recent poll shows that we rank lower today than we ever have. And that it is--this is a poll that goes back a few weeks earlier--anonymous sources, our use thereof, that makes people more upset with us than anything else. This [new] poll, I don't think it tells us anything. Maybe you're right, John. Maybe it tells us how well known people are. But you know, they gave the respondents I think a list of ten names. I'd like to know why they chose the ten names they chose. Why isn't Brian Williams there? Peter Jennings is not in his anchor chair right now. It's just very strange.

GIBSON: Eric Burns, host of Fox NewsWatch. And I don't know about you, but I call myself a reporter instead of a journalist. The J-word always bothered me. Eric, thanks; see you later.

BURNS: Very similar occupation, John.

posted: Tue - June 14, 2005 at 06:01 PM       j$p  send