The Verdict on ABC News

27Jun09

As promised, I watched the ridiculously important/boring Questions for the President: Prescription for America program that ABC News hosted at the White House. I gained quite the education on the President’s plan for health care reform, something I knew very little about before. Even a few of my questions were represented by those asked by the audience and journalists present.

The journalists running the show were Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer (not the two scariest people ever), the latter of which seemed especially giddy at being in the White House standing next to the President. She dropped the ball on several occasions looking super starstruck. They were minor infractions: not realizing that she needed to get the microphone to an audience member, punctuated by her nervous giggling when she realized she messed up.

Overall, however, I found the critiques of ABC News prior to the broadcast to be mostly unfounded. If anything, ABC News is just greedy for ratings and found a unique way to get some attention while at the same time starting a conversation about something that is wicked important. Follow the link for a breakdown of my critique on what they did well and could have done better.

Complaints:

  • Of the 164 audience members that was supposed to represent Americans of all walks of life, only 14 asked questions, most of the earliest ones I didn’t understand.
  • Of those 14 questions, eight of them were from experts and officials such as doctors, medical and nursing students and insurance agency presidents. They are valid stakeholders with important infor being brought to the table, but their questions were the hardest to grasp and took over the majority of the first hour while most “everyman” questions were pushed to the last half hour that was broadcast after local news.
  • It wasn’t enough time to cover the topic, but of course, will they ever be able to cover the whole topic in one program?
  • The journalists’ giddiness over being that close to the President.

Praises:

  • The journalists asked a total of 13 questions either on their own or as follow-up. Surprisingly, most of these questions were not pandering to the President’s agenda, just acting as opportunities for him to sell his plan. A lot of the questions represented the skeptical, even the outright critical, and none of the critiques were mocked or brushed aside as unfounded. Gibson even had the gumption to interrupt the President several times in an attempt to get him to answer the questions.
  • The insurance agency president has one of the most hard-hitting questions of all.
  • The majority of questions from the audience were hard-hitting, only a handful were gimmes.
  • Most of the major critiques of Obama’s plan were represented including the Big Brother fear of government health care and its cost.
  • I learned a lot from this conversation with the President so go ABC for providing us a forum to learn about what’s going on.

Like I said before, I don’t think ABC News is trying to become the Obama News Network with this program. Despite the list of complaints, this was just a news special, reminiscent of FDR’s radio fireside chats. Nothing to see here as far as the end of a free press goes.

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