Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Brit Hume's Remarks in Accepting MRC's 'Award for Media Excellence'

Remarks delivered by Brit Hume, commentator for the Fox News Channel and former anchor of FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, in accepting the third annual "William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence" at the Media Research Center's Gala held on Thursday, March 19, 2009:

Thank you all so much. Well, I think we all may recall where that music came from, I certainly remember that program, Firing Line. So many years on the air. I'm humbled and honored to stand here before you to receive this award in the name of someone whom I admired so much; and thought, as you heard Brent say, was such a remarkably nice person for someone whose wit was so -- and intellect -- were so utterly penetrating.

I wanted to tell you -- the hour is late, and I promise not to be long. You know, one of the first rules of speaking is always be brief. And when you speak last, the idea is to be really brief. I want to say a word, however, of thanks to Brent and to the team at the Media Research Center and all of the contributors who make that work there possible. Not just for this wonderfully, this wonderfully fine award in the name of someone who, as I say, I admire so much -- but also for the tremendous amount of material that the Media Research Center provided me for so many years when I was anchoring Special Report. I don't know what we would've done without them. It was a daily, sort of, buffet of material to work from, and we certainly made tremendous use of it.

I guess I have two things to be thankful for tonight. One is the receipt of this award, and the second is that I'm not Tim Geithner. I make no judgment here about whether he has done a good job or a bad job, but I think that he is one who seems to be the man in the middle of the spotlight which is shining rather brightly on the Obama administration; which I think, to give a shout out to Joe the Plumber, Joe, you asked a great question last year, and I think, buddy, you've got your answer! Yes sir, your taxes are going up! And so are all the rest of ours.

Let me just reflect for a moment, if I can, on Bill Buckley and how I remember him. Years ago, I used to work for the late syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, and a couple of years after I left -- I worked for him from 1970 through 1973 -- and several years after I had left him -- and I was always very fond of Jack, he was a lovely man -- and he landed an interview during our bicentennial year with then-President Ford. And he went over to the White House and did the interview -- and I guess he had it privately produced -- and he had the idea, I think, that this interview, this exclusive interview with the President of the United States in the middle of our bicentennial year would be, would be a great coup and that any of the broadcast networks would be eager to have it. Well boy, was he wrong.

And Bill Buckley saw this spectacle of Jack, kind of, sort of peddle this interview around the broadcast row and getting no takers, and in his generous way, invited Jack on Firing Line. And he interviewed him on Firing Line and he said, he asked Jack for his thoughts on what might be the reasons why the networks would turn him down. Well, I'm sure Bill Buckley had his ideas about the reasons this Republican President would not be of any interest to them, but Jack was saying how he thought, he thought that anything the President of the United States had to say about America in our bicentennial year ought to be news and interesting to the networks. Well, this was too much for even Bill Buckley, who said, "Well, what if the President were to say, 'Baa baa, black sheep?'" Much as I loved Jack Anderson, I thought "oh, boy!" And Jack said, "Well I'd put that right up at the top of the evening news!" and Buckley said, "Yes, I suppose you would, wouldn't you?"

I'd just like to add one further point, you know, as we sit here tonight, the news industry, and the newspaper business in particular, are in pretty serious trouble. And it is possible to imagine a day where the news landscape won't look anything like what it does today, and these organs of the media that we look at, particularly the newspapers will be transformed, if not gone. And some of you might be wondering, well, what will that leave for the Media Research Center to do? And it's worth recalling that the tradition of neutral reporting, which I was kind of brought up in, from the days I went to work for the old Hartford Times back in 1965, was not arrived at out of any great sense of propriety or honor or integrity by the news business; it was arrived at because newspapers, as they grew as an industry, as the industry grew, needed to appeal to as large a cross-section of the readership, of the public as possible.

And of course, if you recall, you know, a great many of the newspapers in this country were originally party press. You see the names of one party or another reflected in, in newspapers to this day -- the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Waterbury, Connecticut Republican, if it's still around. That was the tradition, they were partisan organs. And you see in the British newspapers these days, most of them have a very clear identity and the news is slanted in one direction or another, and everybody knows it, and everybody expects it -- and to some extent, I guess, respects it. Well that has not been the tradition here, for very sound business reasons.

What is happening now, to all these old organs that once observed this tradition, and I think sadly, to an increasingly lesser extent have followed it in recent years, is that they're going away, they're dying, they're dying for all kinds of reasons; I wish I could stand here tonight and say they're dying because they're unbalanced, but I think there are a lot of other reasons for that. But, what are we getting? We're getting, we're getting bloggers, and Web sites, and all sorts of individual entrepreneurism. We have a vaster menu of choices today than we've ever had. But, I think that we also have the danger that everything will be presented from one political viewpoint or the other and that the media that confront us are going to be more partisan than ever. Which means that the Media Research Center will have a mission for many years to come, and a good thing that is.

So, that's just a final thought from me. The hour is late, I'm honored to be here, honored to be among you. Thanks to the Media Research Center for all it does. Good night.

Video online of these remarks, and those of MRC President Brent Bozell introducing Hume: www.mrc.org
-- Brent Baker

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