PBS' ombudsman Michael Getler has a column up about the McLaughlin Group -- or as he calls it, "that weekly scream-fest 'talk' show that is aired by some 315 PBS member stations but is not produced by PBS."
It seems Getler just hates getting emails about the show. So much so that the messages make him want to "grab a beer and hit the chute."
Funny, I feel the same way watching the show given all of the conservative misinformation spewed on the program by the likes of Pat Buchanan, Monica Crowley and John McLaughlin himself.
This was one of those weeks where I, too, felt like that airline cabin attendant who grabbed a beer and hit the escape chute. Actually, there wasn't much going on. What follows is a brief mailbag before I set out on a too-brief vacation.
Most of the e-mails are about one or another segment of the PBS NewsHour, which is about the only game in town during August. But the first batch of letters, and the real reason I wanted to grab a beer and hit the chute, is, once again, about The McLaughlin Group, that weekly scream-fest "talk" show that is aired by some 315 PBS member stations but is not produced by PBS, nor does PBS have anything to do with its content. And so PBS, of course, takes no responsibility for this obviously popular but raucous opinion program, even though most of the people who watch it on their local PBS station seem to think it is a PBS program, and who can blame them.
I have written about this program many times in my columns over the past four years, having received probably thousands of e-mails from viewers about it. Most of them are critical. I've argued, to no avail so far, that PBS and its member stations ought to figure out some way to flag programs on the screen that are not part of the national PBS programming. Programs such as the NewsHour, Frontline, NOVA and Antiques Roadshow, for example, are part of the national programming service and carry the small PBS logo at the bottom of the screen. Just the absence of that little PBS logo doesn't seem to do it.
I write about The Group at times, anyway, because even though PBS washes its hands of this program, so many people think it is has the PBS seal of approval that I feel an obligation in many cases to respond to the issue people are writing-in about, and also to explain, again, PBS's alleged non-role and that all of these member stations are independent and can broadcast whatever they choose.