FNC's Burns Plays Down MSM's Political Biases
Q: You don't give away much on the air. You're pretty good at playing the middle - the centrist. Can you tell us what your politics are, generally?
A: No. I won't do that because that's not what I'm paid for at Fox. There are a lot of people who do give their political opinions on the air. And I make it a point - and a point of pride - to have people not know my politics. I don't think they are relevant to a show that analyzes the news, so I prefer to keep them to myself off the air, as I do on.
The truth is, I have been hosting "News Watch" for eight years. Not once in eight years - that's 400 shows - has anyone said to me, "You've got to put this in the show." ... There is simply no interference with "Fox News Watch." I have never been asked by anyone who works in any capacity at Fox what my politics are and I have never heard a comment from anyone in any capacity at Fox about anything I've said on the air.
And that's the thing a lot of people who write about Fox don't like to hear, because they make assumptions about bias that I - in eight years of hosting a show about the media - have never once personally encountered. They don't like to hear that, I suppose, because they don't believe it.
And portion two:
Q: What's your pet criticism of news media today? Things aren't balanced, there's a liberal bias, too much frivolity?
A: I think there's a much greater problem than political bias. I see political bias both ways. I don't tend to see as much of it as some people do. To me, the two main biases that affect television news are a bias toward simplicity - stripping a story of its necessary nuance - and toward sensationalism, making a story that really isn't that important seem as if it is. Those are the two primary and most deleterious biases operating in television news today.
Q: Have you seen that in coverage of Iraq?
A: Maybe simplicity a little, which is somewhat endemic to television, because there isn't that much time and we need pictures for everything. But no. I don't think Iraq is a good example of what I'm talking about. John Mark Karr is a good example of what I'm talking about. But when we cover really serious stories, when we cover the violence in the Middle East, when we cover the war in Iraq, the gravity of the story tends to force us into doing our best work. But it's the slower news times when we are more prone to be sensational. And it's when the story is very complex, for instance, the roots of what's going on in the Middle East, that we tend to simplify. We can certainly cover the day's action very well. But we don't do nearly as well at helping people to understand why there is such violence and how far the roots go.