The George Foster Peabody Award is broadcasting’s highest honor, and so, when the Peabody Committee announced the creation of a Peabody Award for Journalistic Integrity, I naturally assumed that it would go to either Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, or Laura Ingraham, the shining lights of the Fox Television empire. The only challenge for the Peabody judges would be to choose among the three.
I suspect that most of you had the same thoughts.
After all, integrity is a straightforward concept. The dictionary defines it as “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” I ask you, who better fills that bill than Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham? To say that the trio may not technically be “journalists’ is nitpicking of the worst order. After all, millions of Americans turn to them for advice on what to believe. And the three of them deliver a worldview that is also a rallying cry that tells them they are not alone.
Again, integrity means structural consistency that can be relied on. A building that lacks structural integrity — like the condominium in Surfside, Fla. — can collapse at any time. We want the same integrity in our journalists: no ambiguity, no gray areas, no uncertainty, and no contradictions. Like their spiritual father Rush Limbaugh, Ingraham, Hannity, and Carlson help us navigate a complex world by bringing clarity and eliminating nuance. That’s awardwinning journalism!
Integrity also means incorruptibility, and any objective observer of the Fox trio must acknowledge that their presentations are never corrupted — or even influenced — by anything outside their own reality.
Or by facts.
For example, Tucker Carlson has been unwavering in his assertions that immigrants and the Black Lives Matter movement pose a greater threat to America than COVID-19. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, Carlson has maintained his integrity.
Sean Hannity is also a pillar of integrity and consistency, telling his devoted followers that the Jan. 6 insurrection was staged by antifascists with the covert assistance of the FBI, even though there’s no evidence to support him.
And Laura Ingraham is their match for incorruptibility. She asserts with unwavering certainty and near monotonous regularity that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen from Donald J. Trump, ignoring the 60-plus lawsuits that went against Trump and strong evidence that the election was the most secure in our nation’s history.
That is integrity, structural consistency, and incorruptibility. No silly arguments, no wishy-washy “on the one hand/on the other hand” garbage, and no confusing back-and-forth debating with people who might disagree with them.
I can only assume that the Peabody judges could not bear to choose among Ingraham, Carlson, and Hannity, and opted for a compromise. As you probably know, they gave the coveted Peabody Award for Journalistic Integrity to Judy Woodruff of the “PBS NewsHour.”
Frankly, I don’t get it. Woodruff is anything but unwavering. If anything, I would say that she is consistently wobbly. For example, she regularly gives airtime to people with opposing viewpoints and lets them argue, and she never steps in to tell us who is right. In fact, that seems to be a fetish of hers.
Worse yet — unlike Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham — Woodruff never tells us how she feels about the issues. Although I was a “NewsHour” correspondent for 30 years, I still have no idea of her politics.
What kind of journalism is that? How on earth are we to proceed without direction?
Retired journalist John Merrow received the George Foster Peabody Award in 2001 and again in 2006. He lives in Edgartown with his wife, Joan Lonergan.