ABC's David Muir Seriously Touts Vetting, Oversight of Modern Journalism

"World News Saturday" anchor David Muir appeared on the Media Bistro's "Morning Media Menu" podcast on Friday and asserted that the fact that online journalists are now eligible to compete for a Pulitzer Prize might increase the professionalism of bloggers and could, in the future, "give [online reporting] more weight, more credence and people will know that what they're reading isn't simply one version of events or an opinion." One wonders if Muir is referring to such paragons of journalistic integrity as his ABC colleague Bill Weir, who on the January 20 "World News," marveled that "even the seagulls must have been awed" by the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Muir (see file photo above), who was talking to podcast hosts Steve Krakauer and Rebecca Fox, added that the possibility of being awarded such a prestigious journalistic prize could elevate online reporting to "be at the level of journalism that we know is being, you know, fact checked and, and, worthy, worthy of a Pulitzer in the end." On the April 4 "World News" Muir himself said of Obama's G-20 international summit, "...Other heads of state are seemingly trying to get close to the head of the class, or the cool kid in the class, if you will, President Obama." Would that be an example of simply stating "one version of events?"

And speaking of fact checking and credence, it was Muir's own network, ABC, that famously used fake resumes and references to go undercover at Food Lion and attack the supermarket chain's food handling practices. MRC President Brent Bozell wrote about the case in a January 28, 1997 column:

In a nutshell, in 1994 ABC planted two producers (with fake credentials provided by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has publicly vowed to destroy the right-to-work Food Lion grocery chain). The ten minute national television story purported to show serious sanitation problems at Food Lion; Food Lion responded with a lawsuit and in the discovery phase was able to acquire the 45 hours of footage ABC had compiled undercover, footage which showed the producers actually staging events in order to show Food Lion in the worst possible light. The food chain chose not to sue for libel - proving malice is next to impossible - instead opting to charge the network with fraud and trespassing. A jury agreed with the complaint, and slapped the multi-million dollar fine on ABC.

[That award was mostly overturned by a divided 2-1 judge panel.]

A transcript of Muir's comments on the subject, from the April 24 "Morning Media Menu," follow:

DAVID MUIR [on online journalists now being eligible for a Pulitzer]: And I think it's kind of a fascinating debate, because it was the Pulitzer that, as you know, kind of, pushed reporters away from the yellow journalism in the early 1900s. And, so, I think when you have something as heavy as the Pulitzer being considered for- Hey someone out there is saying we should consider this- for people who blog and people who write on the web. You know, I'm always, you know, a little leery about the idea of an award or people wanting to write a report knowing that there could be a award in their future. But on the flip side, it also might elevate the hard work that so many people are doing on the web and in their blogs. And, you know, if we could get the kind of vetting and legal oversight and, you know, constant screenings that we do here on a daily basis for the reports that we put on the air- also for the reporting on the internet, I think it will give it more weight, more credence and people will know that what they're reading isn't simply one version of events or an opinion, but will actually be at the level of journalism that we know is being, you know, fact checked and, and, worthy, worthy of a Pulitzer in the end.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org