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Continued: Fox's Wallace counters stereotype of station's work

  • Article by: NEAL JUSTIN
  • Last update: September 3, 2008 - 7:25 PM

Chris Wallace has worked 16 conventions, is the son of a legendary investigative reporter and has provided some of the most hard-hitting, revealing interviews of the political season. Yet to some viewers he carries about as much credibility as a rabid jackal.

He works for Fox.

Since day one, the cable-news station has been branded as a right-wing operation, one that washes the back of Dick Cheney and giggles every time a correspondent says the word "Clinton." Wallace, host of the midday program "The Strategy Room," is sick of it.

"There's a terrible double standard," said Wallace, chatting after an edition of "The Strategy Room." "Other stations get away with a lot worse."

Wallace has every right to fume. He got a taste of his first convention as Walter Cronkite's gofer during the 1964 convention and he has done terrific work ever since.

Wallace, son of Mike Wallace, is a journalist who broke the story at the 1980 convention that Ronald Reagan was tapping George Bush, not Gerald Ford, as his running mate. He's a journalist who conducted a solid interview on Sunday with Sen. John McCain. He has earned three Emmys. To put him under the same umbrella as the loudmouths and pundits who are employed by the same boss is as unfair as slapping down Charlie Gibson just because he's on the same network that brings you "Wipeout."

"From a ratings standpoint, we should probably have Bill O'Reilly leading the entire convention coverage," Wallace said. "We're not going to do that."

We all can be guilty of holding wide, sweeping stereotypes -- and that includes Wallace himself.

He says that the vast majority of newspapers and TV news outlets all carry a heavy liberal bias.

"They're all breathing the same air and drinking the same water," he said.

What Fox does, he argues, is take a different perspective on stories that the rest of the media are too leftish -- or too lazy -- to explore.

He praised his colleague Brit Hume for a story he did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that pointed out the shortcomings of local and state leaders in Louisiana while everyone else was piling on the president and FEMA.

Wallace is particularly quick to criticize MSNBC and wonders aloud why more people haven't gone after that operation for having Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews head convention coverage while still spewing their opinions on their own programs.

Truth be told, MSNBC has taken some heat in recent months for the observations and commentary by some of its high-profile personalities. Phil Griffin, who oversees MSNBC's coverage, admitted Tuesday that his operation is often "walking a high wire and a couple times last week we lost our balance."

But he's quick to add that the trips were an exception over the past six months.

"Viewers today understand the difference between commentary and coverage," he said, standing on the St. Paul Public Library steps as MSNBC shows played out across the street in Rice Park, populated with protesters, fans and a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator. "We've got people who are passionate, who love what they cover and we want that reflected."

Walking around the convention these past days, you can't help but run into media personalities who are more concerned about making dramatic statements and logging the most air time. But you're also bound to meet true professionals like Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell and Wallace, solid reminders that both MSNBC and Fox News care about integrity, at least when it matters the most.

njustin@startribune.com • 612-673-7431

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