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Does 20/20s John Stossel Deserve a Promotion?

FAIR-L
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and activism

ACTION ALERT:
Does Stossel Deserve a Promotion?

May 23, 2003

Starting tonight, ABC reporter John Stossel will have a new job at 20/20: co-anchor. Barbara Walters' former partner John Miller departed in January, and ABC chose Stossel to fill his role. According to a recent report in TV Guide (5/10/03), one source at ABC says that picking Stossel makes sense: "These are conservative times... the network wants somebody to match the times."

One might hope ABC would be more concerned with hiring a journalist with a record of credible and accurate reporting than with matching the perceived political climate. For years, Stossel's work has been notable for bungled facts and twisted logic, all in service to his conservative "free market" agenda. (See Extra!, 3-4/03.) In a 1998 report (2/3/98), Stossel dismissed complaints about rising CEO salaries, saying that "factory wages were up, too-- up 70 percent" in the last 15 years. But wages for manufacturing workers had risen only if you don't adjust for inflation; in terms of purchasing power, factory workers' wages had fallen by more than 6 percent since 1983. In a 1999 special (9/19/99), one of Stossel's main sources claimed that Hong Kong is "the only government in the world that makes a surplus, a big surplus." In fact, 11 countries-- including the U.S.-- had run a budget surplus the previous year.

Stossel's methods have also been called into question-- most memorably when he cited research that didn't actually exist about pesticide residues in organic produce (New York Times, 7/31/00).

In a recent email to viewers (5/16/03) Stossel lashed out at his critics, "the activists of the totalitarian Left, which try to get people like me fired, or silenced." FAIR, however, has never called on ABC to fire him. We have frequently asked for Stossel's reports-- more opinion pieces than news stories-- to be balanced with commentary from an opposing point of view, and we've encouraged viewers to ask ABC whether the numerous inaccuracies and distortions in Stossel broadcasts meet the network's standards.

Up until now, ABC has for the most part ignored the thousands of letters pointing out the unreliability of Stossel's reporting. Now, apparently, it's decided that the appropriate response is a promotion.

ACTION: Please ask ABC News to explain how Stossel's journalistic record justifies his promotion.

CONTACT: ABC News mailto:netaudr@abc.com

20/20 mailto:2020@abc.com

As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone. Please cc fair@fair.org with your correspondence.

FAIR's recent reports on Stossel are now online:

"Give Us a Break: The world according to John Stossel" http://www.fair.org/extra/0303/stossel-break.html

"The Stossel Treatment: Selective editing and other unethical tactics" http://www.fair.org/extra/0303/stossel-treatment.html

For more about John Stossel's work over the years, see: http://www.fair.org/media-outlets/stossel.html

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To make a donation to FAIR: http://www.fair.org/donate.html


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