As corporate media spin resembles propaganda more every day, America recently lost a man who truly understood the responsibilities of good journalism and the gravity of free speech. Bob Chitester, who lost his seven-year battle with cancer in May, spent much of his life advocating for personal, political, and economic freedom.
Chitester created the PBS series “Free To Choose” with Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, inspiring Friedman’s book by the same name. He also established Michigan’s most advanced audio/visual program of its time at Saginaw’s Buena Vista High School in the early 1960s, was a tenured professor at Edinboro State University, and founded Erie, Pennsylvania’s PBS and NPR stations.
One of Chitester’s favorite quotes was from Bernhard Haisch: “Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers.”
How many of us are quick to answer questions, yet not question answers? Our country in general, and the media in particular, would benefit greatly from more Bob Chitesters – open-minded individuals who mindfully respect the profession of journalism and its fundamental responsibility to be transparent, balanced, accurate, and fair, letting the audience make up their own minds.
Sadly, too much of our media consumption today has been hijacked by partisan advocates who present incomplete or distorted viewpoints (or ignore a topic altogether) to further particular agendas, drowning out the diversity of thought that has enabled so many watershed moments in our history.
One such moment occurred in 1977, after noted Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith published his popular book, “The Age of Uncertainty,” a call for European-style political and economic socialism in the United States. PBS, along with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the British Broadcasting Company, created a series of videos based on the book.
Chitester saw no balance to that program and that same year, he approached W. Allen Wallis, the President Richard Nixon-appointed chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with his desire to produce a video series that would counter “The Age of Uncertainty.” Wallis introduced Chitester to Friedman, who later that year was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. Chitester convinced a reluctant Friedman and his
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