Bias in the Newsroom

Next time you listen to a newscast – a purportedly straight newscast reported-on by Steve Cichon or Dave Debo, or anchored by John Zach and Susan Rose – remember that this banner is now hanging in that station’s newsroom: 

That’s after the station spent all day last Thursday “covering” this anti-gun rally in Albany, joining with Carl Paladino to sponsor a bus caravan of WBEN listeners to the rally. 

The funny thing is that protests in Albany are a dime a dozen, and the only novelty about this one is that it was populated by underemployed conservatives who are not used to activism that goes beyond stating their name and location for a call screener. 

WBEN’s blatant anti-SAFE Act propaganda and agitation are all well and good, I suppose, but the station should no longer masquerade as a straight news outlet. It has crossed the line into issue-based PAC and should register with the Board of Elections. Thursday’s newscast and subsequent talk shows were nothing more than an infomercial for people who think that limiting magazine capacity from 10 to 7 rounds is “tyranny”. 

14 comments

  • More people attended the Bandits lacrosse game that night then attended the rally. I think I know where the majority of voters stand.

  • I checked WBEN’s website and right under the header it clearly gives 3 choices, News, Talk, and Weather.  Next, I pulled up the local station listings on Tunein Radio, and voila, WBEN is listed as “specialty talk”.  I searched in vain but was unable to find WBEN claiming News, News, News – nothing but the News.

  • The people of WNY deserve a better flagship station than WBEN.  They have every right to cater to their fringe audience but stop masquerading as “Buffalo’s news station”.  On Feb 19th John and Susan interviewed the guy who organized the Niagara County gun rally.  During his spiel he wondered aloud if gun control advocates had a rally would they become targets.  This mindless irresponsible quip passed by with nary a word.   Shame on the hosts.

    I’ve contacted Tim Wenger many times  and even Entercom itself to no avail.  Entercom owns all the viable stations so they know boycotting advertisers won’t work or boycotting WBEN for that matter.  President Clinton really screwed up when he allowed corporations to gobble up radio stations.  I wish I knew a way to put pressure on WBEN but I don’t.

    •  Clinton screwed up, in that allowing media consolidation is bad. He didn’t screw up in the sense of making a mistake or a miscalculation — this is what he wanted.

  • We heard from many of the same group (gun rights activists, tea-partiers, etc) whining and crying and complaining about the cost to the taxpayer for the “Occupy Buffalo” encampment.  It would be interesting, and ballanced, to take a hard look at what their own little rally cost.  Extra police presence required?  State or city clean-up. Providing trash cans for the empty tea cups, etc.
    I wager they would be mightly interested in knowing just how much “other people’s money” they spent on their little protest.
    But i won’t wager much, not much at all.

  • If the BoE/PAC part of this was intended seriously…

    the station should no longer masquerade as a straight news outlet. It has crossed the line into issue-based PAC and should register with the Board of Elections.

    … then should Artvoice (the paper, not blogs) register with the BoE as an issue-based PAC regarding issues such as fracking and taxpayer funding of arts groups?

    When does advocacy journalism cross a line into when something should register as a PAC?

    • Artvoice is hardly your local daily newspaper, and is instead your weekly alternative paper, which are completely different from what WBEN purports to be between 5am – 9am. 

      At what point did John Zach and Susan Rose’s morning newscast morph from a straight newscast to a 4-hour informercial for, e.g., Carl Paladino or a gun rally? 

      • Can’t answer about timing of any morphing because Zach-Rose have been so unlisten-to-able for me for years now.  If I have 930/107 on around that time it’s only for very short snippets between any boring moments on 103 Shredd/Ragan or 88 WBFO – both of which usually are far preferrable mornings.

        Back when I did listen more, no, I didn’t infer bias from either Zach or Rose.  Especially during interviews, it would sound like they both had only a very weak grasp of most issues – barely enough to interact with interviewees, never mind trying to influence the audience to either side.  

        Sometimes they’d ask things guests had already voluneteered answers for, as if mindlessly reading from a question list and not paying attention to what’s been said.  But they’d let guests speak their minds and not try to argue with them Hannity style or Piers Morgan style.

        Pucket, Debo, Cichon haven’t struck me as biased in newscasts – but even if they are, it might be difficult to pick up on in little 3 story intervals of mostly reading national headlines or introducing a local report.  Maybe it would be easier to notice something like that in Debo’s Sunday show (if he’s one of whom you’re referring to), but I haven’t heard that show lately either.

        If Zach-Rose hours or the newscasts have changed recently and become clearly biased, I wouldn’t be one who’d notice at this point.

        During newscasts on Gun Rally Day, did they include any interviews with supporters of the Cuomo law?

        • Presumably what’s on any station website’s news lists is the same as what they’re reading on the air in newscasts.

          Here’s theirs as of now:

          WBEN Extra: Is Paladino Too Hot for School Board?
          Venezuela Announces Death of President Chavez
          New Record Close For Dow
          ‘Draft Day’ Dreams Dashed
          50 Cats Found Inside Abandoned North Tonawanda House
          Dow Hits Highest Mark Ever
          VIDEO: Giffords Airs Gun Ad In Advance Of Senate Hearing Thursday
          Did Rally Work? Talk of Changing NYS Gun Law
          Poll : Cautious Catholics Look At Benedict’s Legacy; Successor
          Pastor Defends Flight Over Peace Bridge in Lesbian Custody Dispute
          Buffett & Gates Still Atop US Billionaire List But Not Richest in World
          Kaleta Suspended FIve Games for Hit on Richards
          Downtown stadium proposal could include a museum
          Depew Man Arrested in Internet Porno Scam
          LeRoy Police Investigate Baby Death

          Here’s WBFO’s

          Assembly votes to ban fracking for two more years
          Man charged with killing 3-year-old boy
          Homicide detectives investigating cab driver’s death
          Women’s History Month: Charlotte Mulligan
          Giambra says October Surprise response was appropriate
          Battle over proposed scrap metal yard in Buffalo
          Costner movie won’t be filmed in Buffalo
          Former east side toy store goes up in flames
          Man shoots wife, self, sets home on fire
          Women’s History Month: Commission on Status of Women

          Any bias evident from that?  

          Neither one looks that way to me.  Then again, I’ve always thought that Commission on Status of Women sounds like a waste of county money,  so if 88.7 is praising that maybe they should register as a special interest PAC.

          • Yeah. Especially when WBFO sponsored a bus trip for its listeners to agitate for women’s rights.

          • Perhaps funding a bus trip does look like a bigger deal than any words broadcast or published by any media outlet.

            But it it really a big enough deal to say it should have to register as a PAC? 
            (If that was a serious point to which I responded initially. I’m still not sure if it was or not.)

            Does any law require PAC registration in order to spend one’s own money advocating a political issue?

        • No. It was a four-hour long infomercial for WBEN’s bus trip – sponsored by Carl Paladino – to oppose a law.

          Just like today’s “newscast” was a four hour-long infomercial for Carl Paladino and his run for school board.

          I’m not talking about editorial leanings. I’m talking about blatant advocacy.

          • Okay, maybe they should rename the program something like “Buffalo’s Morning News & Talk”.  Or “… Talk & News”, or something.  Artvoice calls AV Daily “News & Commentary” where they do blatant advocacy against fracking, against the Peace Bridge Authority, etc., intermixed with some more neutral reporting about other things.  Many readers and listeners probably can figure out which is which both for AV and 930, and the NYT, CBS, NBC, CNN, … 

            So it could be that adjusting the name would be appropriate, but leaving in the word “news” would make sense. 

            Did any of those eight hours you listened to them over those two days include any non-Paladino news at all?  You surpassed in two days how much I’ve listened to that show over the past year, so I’m at an info disadvantage about it. 

  • Susan Rose asks Mayor Dyster if Bloomberg can buy America http://www.wben.com/topic/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=6296200. Wonder where that line of questioning came from. Perhaps the NRA? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjr9B-RKoOA

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