Fox News anchor
Chris Wallace discussed the recent presidential election, bias in
the media and more during a question-and-answer session hosted by
the School of Communications Nov. 8 in Whitley Auditorium. He was
on hand at Elon to help announce a new Broadcast scholarship presented
by Larry and Dee D'Angelo in honor of Wallace's stepfather, former
CBS News President Bill Leonard.
the Q-A session, Wallace paid heartfelt tribute to Leonard, sharing
a brief biographical sketch of his fascinating life in communications.
"This is a sentimental journey today," he said. "Bill
Leonard was a special man."
as editor of the Dartmouth Daily, Leonard graduated in 1937 and
worked for a small newspaper in New Haven, Conn. He served in the
Navy in World War II and afterward was hired as a radio broadcaster
for CBS. His show moved to television, and eventually Leonard became
a producer and TV news executive. He pioneered the first "vote
profile analysis" in 1962 as head of the CBS News election
unit - it was the first use of statistical analysis of a voter cross-section
used to accurately project election outcomes. "The competition
was left flat-footed, and it established CBS News as the pre-eminent
news organization of the time," Wallace said.
in on the creation of "60 Minutes," "CBS Sunday Morning"
and many other landmark television programs. He became president
of CBS News, leaving that post in 1992. "He was a tremendous
influence on me personally," Wallace said, citing times they
shared together when he was a young man. "He was the best newsman
I ever knew and the best man I ever knew."
said that during his preparation to come to Elon for the announcement
of the scholarship in Leonard's honor he began to think about what
has happened to television news in recent years. "He died in
1994," he said. "Ten years ago. He would not recognize
the news business if he were to come back today. Back then, at least
70 percent of the audience watched CBS, NBC and ABC. Now we have
cable networks and countless news sites on the internet."
He cited two
examples of "how the world has changed" in regard to broadcast
news. First, fewer and fewer people are watching the traditional
broadcast networks - the "Big Three" - to get their news.
"I was working at the Republican and Democrat conventions this
year, covering them for Fox News," he said. "While I was
on the floor I saw on a monitor that NBC was running 'Fear Factor'
instead of the convention - people eating ants. The regular networks
have gotten out of the business of covering the conventions and
left it to the cable networks." Second, the explosion of news
sites on the internet and the accompanying increase in the popularity
of weblogs are changing how people consume news and are redefining
news delivery. "It puts a demand on us as news providers and
on you as news consumers," he said, "because sometimes
that information in a blog is information and sometimes it is disinformation.
This is a different world from the one Bill Leonard worked in."
has won every major broadcast award for his reporting, including
three Emmy Awards, said the media do all they can to be objective.
"Objectivity is very hard to (achieve) under the best of circumstances,"
he said. "I think that in the end we can't just spoonfeed it
to you. There's some truth on both sides, and it's my job to present
the information to you and let you decide. That puts more responsibility
on the viewer. There's some comparison shopping to do ... a more
active role on the part of the consumer."
his show "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" last year, discussed
the failure of exit polls to predict the outcome in last week's
presidential election. He worked on Election Night 2004 as Fox's
designated "exit poll correspondent."
"We went into
Election Day feeling quite confident," Wallace said of the revised
exit-polling system implemented by the major networks for this year's
election. "As it turns out, the polls were wrong. We've got a big
problem." He pointed out some difficulties with the exit research
as it is being done now. "One theory is that there are so many
polls out there today that some people lie or give disinformation.
There's also a possibility of 'slamming' - people who act as if
they have just voted walking out of the polling place and saying
(to the exit pollers) that they did ... It's going to take two years,
until the next big Congressional election, to figure out if polls
the idea that media outlets might intentionally broadcast inaccurate
exit-polling data to skew election results. "This is a consortium
of all networks, and there is no bias," he said. "We're
just trying to get it right. Sometimes people like to read conspiracy
theories into just sheer incompetence."
many other topics in his chat:
- He said
news-based infotainment programs such as "The Daily Show"
are "healthy" - "There's more choice out there. If
you don't like it, it's easy to just turn it off."
- He said when
he became a White House correspondent it dispelled myths he'd had
about great politicians. "I realized everything I thought I
knew about being president was wrong ... I found that character
(not intellect) was the most important thing."
- He agreed
with an audience member that "Fair and balanced don't always
mean the same thing," and said that in order to be fair reporters
sometimes should not give all sides of a story equal weight.
the day at Elon with his mother, Kappy Leonard, and Larry and Dee
D'Angelo, former chairs of the Elon Parents Council who are members-elect
of Elon's Board of Visitors. The D'Angelos established The D'Angelo
Family Scholarship in Honor of Bill Leonard. Matt
Belanger, a senior from York, Pa., is the first recipient of the
scholarship, which will be awarded each year to a Broadcast major
in the School of Communications. To read more about the scholarship,