PBS Ombudsman Critiques NBC News; White House

In his column this week, PBS’s ombudsman, Michael Getler, wanders far, far away from his home territory in public broadcasting and, instead, does some pro bono ombudsmanry for … NBC News.

Earlier this week, the Bush administration cried foul, alleging that NBC News had unfairly edited a lengthy interview of the president by veteran foreign correspondent Richard Engel. NBC News executives, in turn, defended their right to edit the interview however they saw fit.

Mr. Getler’s verdict? Score one for Mr. Engel!

“This, of course, is purely subjective, but I thought this was one of the best and most challenging interviews I have ever seen with this president,” writes Mr. Getler.

But wait! As ombudsmen are prone to do, Mr. Getler then piles on a few quibbles with NBC News.

“There are only 22 minutes of ‘news’ in the typical commercial network newscast, so segments are short and tight,” writes Mr. Getler. “Intelligent editing is crucial, and I’m sure NBC does it as well as anybody. But the “news” has become half-filled with features every night about health or personal finance matters, or people doing good work. … It made me wonder why even another 15-20 seconds couldn’t be found elsewhere in the program to at least allow the president’s full answers to those questions that were aired. It made me wonder about news judgment that tosses out almost 90 percent of a timely, relatively rare, one-on-one shot at the president by a top correspondent on a crucial set of issues about the war and the Middle East.”

PBS Ombudsman Critiques NBC News; White House