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Jon_B
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Political authorship and political bias - the Ifill dilemma

[ Edited ]

An issue has been raised in the media over the past few days that I think unites the interests of this forum perfectly - current events and books.

 

As many of you may have already seen, some members of the media have recently expressed concern that the moderator of tonite's VP debates - journalist Gwen Ifill, who also moderatred the VP debates in 2004 - is too politically biased to do the job fairly because she is currently writing a book on race in politics entitled Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.    

 

The members of the media who've raised the issue claim that the book is "pro-Obama".  Ifill says that she has not yet written the chapter on Obama, which leads to the question of how anyone knows what kind of political stance towards him is taken in the book.   Can we realistically say at this point what kind of political stance is present in writing that has yet to be written?  Why or why not?

 

Obama's name does, of course, appear in the title of the book.  However Obama's name also appears in the titles of books such as Obama Nation a book which is harshly critical of the candidate.  Does this necessitate the existence of bias?  

 

Is it noteworthy that the existence of this book has been public knowledge for quite some time (including being listed here at BN.com) and yet the issue of potential bias because of it was not raised by the media until just this week?  Why do you think this is the case?

 

The book covers many politicians other than Obama and generally concerns the issue of race in America's political scene - with a particular focus on African Americans.   Besides Obama, other Democratic politicians are mentioned in the book - such as Al Sharpton - but so are Republican politicians, such as Colin Powell.  

 

What are your thoughts on this book and the issue of whether authorship of a book like this necessitates a bias rendering the author incapable of fairly moderating a debate?

 

Message Edited by Jon_B on 10-02-2008 10:45 AM
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Everyman
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Political authorship and political bias - the Ifill dilemma

No, we haven't seen what she's written. But the appearance of fairness is very much and issue.

 

Certainly if Obama wins the election, she could expect her book to sell better than if he lost.  So she has a probable financial vested interest in his winning.  That alone should be disqualifying.  She cannot be Caesar's wife if she stands to benefit financially from the outcome of the election.  

 

You make it sound as though there would be a significant number of politicians mentioned, but according to what I've read, she's writing only about four, of whom Obama is one.   And certainly in researching the book she has to have concentrated more attention on Obama than on McCain, which also makes her objectivity a question.

 

I don't know whether she will in fact be biased in her moderating or not.  But the appearance of fairness issue is enough to say that she should, since she knew she was writing the book, have accepted the moderator's position in the first place, and as soon as the question was raised should have withdrawn to protect the integrity of the process.

 

Of course, this is good for Republicans, since if Palin is seen as not doing as well as Biden in the debate they will have the perfect excuse of blaming the prejudice of the moderator.  Whether or not that turns out to be a legitimate contention, it will have traction with many of the public, and will deflect attention from the debate to the moderator.  

\


Jon_B wrote:

An issue has been raised in the media over the past few days that I think unites the interests of this forum perfectly - current events and books.

 

As many of you may have already seen, some members of the media have recently expressed concern that the moderator of tonite's VP debates - journalist Gwen Ifill, who also moderatred the VP debates in 2004 - is too politically biased to do the job fairly because she is currently writing a book on race in politics entitled Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.    

 

The members of the media who've raised the issue claim that the book is "pro-Obama".  Ifill says that she has not yet written the chapter on Obama, which leads to the question of how anyone knows what kind of political stance towards him is taken in the book.   Can we realistically say at this point what kind of political stance is present in writing that has yet to be written?  Why or why not?

 

Obama's name does, of course, appear in the title of the book.  However Obama's name also appears in the titles of books such as Obama Nation a book which is harshly critical of the candidate.  Does this necessitate the existence of bias?  

 

Is it noteworthy that the existence of this book has been public knowledge for quite some time (including being listed here at BN.com) and yet the issue of potential bias because of it was not raised by the media until just this week?  Why do you think this is the case?

 

The book covers many politicians other than Obama and generally concerns the issue of race in America's political scene - with a particular focus on African Americans.   Besides Obama, other Democratic politicians are mentioned in the book - such as Al Sharpton - but so are Republican politicians, such as Colin Powell.  

 

What are your thoughts on this book and the issue of whether authorship of a book like this necessitates a bias rendering the author incapable of fairly moderating a debate?

 

Message Edited by Jon_B on 10-02-2008 10:45 AM

 

 

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Everyman
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Re: Political authorship and political bias - the Ifill dilemma

It has also emerged, Jon, that Ifill wrote a puff piece on Obama for Essence magazine.  I don't see a date on it, but it was obviously written after his nomination (Soon we will vote for our next president, and for the first time in history, one of the two candidates is a Black man), and the comments on it are dated 9/21/08.    Don't you think this might suggest that there is an appearance of fairness issue here?

 

 

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IBIS
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Re: Political authorship and political bias - the Ifill dilemma

Everyman, thank you for the link to the Essence puff piece by Ifill...

By not commenting on it, I think I'm saying a lot.

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debbook
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Re: Political authorship and political bias - the Ifill dilemma

Now that the debate is over, do people think Ifill was biased with her moderating?
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Timbuktu1
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Re: Political authorship and political bias - the Ifill dilemma


debbook wrote:
Now that the debate is over, do people think Ifill was biased with her moderating?



I was pleasantly surprised.  I'd expected much more bias.  My husband, OTH, thought that she always let Biden have the last word.  

 

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KathyS
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Re: Political authorship and political bias - the Ifill dilemma

[ Edited ]

I didn't expect her to be biased, nor did I feel she was biased.   She seemed fair and neutral, with only a few personal comments.  I watched to see who she would give the question to, first, and who she allowed to speak, last.  It was a toss up.  I can see where it might look like Biden had the last word.  It was probably because he was able to address the issues, directly, "fundamentally", rather than skirting around some of them, as Palin seemed to want to do.

 

After the debate, I saw an interview with Geraldine Ferraro (Dem.):  She felt she wanted to see Palin succeed, and hold her own, as a woman, and as a debater.  She felt she had.  So, I don't think that the moderator gave one side any more advantage over the other, whether Dem., Rep., male, or female, both sides had a fair shot at the questions, and they said what they wanted to say.  The debate didn't change my mind, as to which candidates I would be voting for, it just confirmed it.


Timbuktu1 wrote:

debbook wrote:
Now that the debate is over, do people think Ifill was biased with her moderating?

I was pleasantly surprised.  I'd expected much more bias.  My husband, OTH, thought that she always let Biden have the last word.  


 

 
Message Edited by KathyS on 10-04-2008 10:07 AM