As far as we know, nobody has ever fingered Jane Clayson as a rocket scientist, but it turns out the co-host of CBS's The Early Show could teach the Peabody Award-winning PBS documentarian Bill Moyers a thing or two about fair and balanced journalism.
Last night, PBS aired Moyers's ninety-minute screed, Trade Secrets, which claimed that children and others are imperiled by a reckless chemical industry. But while the show extensively quoted anti-business activists from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Citizen Action, Moyers refused to include the views of any representative from the very industry whose reputation he had impugned with documents obtained by trial lawyers.
"They have no defense for these documents," Moyers argued on NBC's Today on Monday, after he was asked about industry complaints that his complete omission of chemical spokesmen from the documentary was "journalistic malpractice."
"Their only defense is to attack the messenger who brings the message," Moyers insisted. "I take it as a badge of honor." Moyers allowed two spokesmen for the industry to plead their case in a separate half-hour program that also featured two industry critics, including Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, which Moyers's foundation financially backed in the past. While the panel show included both sides, the documentary featured 90 minutes of industry critics, vs. zero minutes for supporters.
This morning, CBS's Clayson also interviewed EWG's Cook, who was promoting how his organization's Web site will provide public access to the industry documents featured in Moyers's show, alongside Terry Yosie, the vice president of the American Chemistry Council. That exchange was fairly balanced: critic Cook talked for 2 minutes 20 seconds, while Yosie spoke for exactly two minutes.
"Why would Bill Moyers disregard even the appearance of objectivity?" asked Rich Noyes, Director of the Media Research Center's Free Market Project. "Perhaps he realized many viewers would not agree with his anti-industry premise if they were exposed to a truly fair and balanced presentation of the issues." - Rich Noyes