Bob Franken

The Awful Ifill Debate

October 1, 2008
The Awful Ifill Debate (Bob Franken)
@ 3:52 pm

So let’s get this straight: Because Gwen Ifill is writing a book on Barack Obama and post-civil rights politics, she has such a vested financial interest in Obama winning, she can’t possibly be a fair moderator in the vice presidential debate. It’s a conflict of interest.

Well, then, maybe we should talk about her other conflicts.

Gwen is black. So, of course, she favors an Obama victory. Racial pride overcomes her professional pride.

Gwen is a woman. So, naturally, she wants the Palin-McCain ticket to win the election. Helen Reddy and all that.

Well, Ms. Ifill is not the only one. I’m as conflicted as all get-out. Gwen is a longtime friend of mine. We’ve competed. We’ve had dinner together. In addition, executive producer is like a brother to me.

But I’m also close buddies with Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren, who complains that this creates an unacceptable appearance of one-sidedness — that reporters should maintain the same standards as lawyers.

Setting aside the easy jokes about lawyers’ standards, I’ll stay on the high road, Greta, and point out that you and your fellow attorneys are paid huge sums of money to be advocates. It’s a whole different mindset, and it’s really difficult to understand for those who don’t do what Gwen and lesser types like me do for a living.

Obviously, all human beings have opinions. I know it’s hard to believe, but we are daily able to suspend those feelings while at work. When covering a story, or moderating, it is very easy to slide into a intensely focused mindset where the singular idea is presenting a set of facts in a fair context. It’s routine for any journalist worth his or her salt.

Gwen Ifill is definitely worth her salt. I have probably never said that about a woman before, but Gwen is a tried-and-true, certified old-school professional who takes a no-nonsense approach to our craft.

There is no way in the world she could be anything but fair in the debate. She doesn’t have it in her. It’s understandable in this world of media blowhards that so many would be conditioned to doubt anyone could be an honest broker, but if anyone can, it’s Gwen Ifill.

So just let her do her damned job. Then let the politicians do theirs. We might actually learn something.

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