Lawmaker May Seek Hearings on TV News Methods

Sep 28, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Threatening to turn up the legislative heat on CBS News, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas, said Tuesday he might hold hearings after the elections into how major news organizations check their facts.

In the immediate aftermath of CBS News’ admission that it couldn’t authenticate documents it used to slam President Bush’s National Guard record, Rep. Barton said he vetoed calls from GOP colleagues to launch a congressional investigation into the report for fear of influencing the outcome of the presidential election. But at a luncheon Tuesday sponsored by the Association for Maximum Service Television in Washington, Rep. Barton said Congress should look into the decision-making processes of CBS and other major TV news organizations.

“Once the election is over, I think there are some real issues there,” Rep. Barton said. According to the congressman, when he grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, it was generally accepted that what appeared on the evening news was true. But now, he said, the old stick-to-the-facts ethic appears to have been replaced with “If it’s close enough, let’s go with it and see if it sticks.”

Said the congressman: “I personally don’t see the same standards of authentication in what goes on the air. … If you’re going to proclaim it as news, you’re going to have to have safeguards.”

In a question-and-answer session, Rep. Barton declined to specify who would be asked to testify at the hearings or to elaborate on other details about the session. “But it’s going to be fair and balanced,” he said.