MSNBC Surprises with Fair Border Story

November 28th, 2005 1:06 AM

The grand purpose of Newsbusters is to present examples of provable factual bias in the mainstream media (MSM). This article does not do that. Instead, it presents an example of the MSM, specifically MSNBC, running a program on illegal immigration, which is scrupulously honest, fair and balanced.

I almost did not watch “Crossing the Line? The Battle at America’s Borders” because I thought this documentary, hosted by Lester Holt, would be the usual “pity the (illegal) immigrants and let them all in because they just want jobs” pabulum that the press usually generates. Five minutes in, it was clearly no such thing.

I watched to the end, expecting it to degenerate into that biased approach eventually. Except for one obvious factual error near the end, it never did that. (The quotes are taken from a TiVo of the program watched repeatedly to get the right. The transcript is not yet on the MSNBC website.)

Why write about a news program on a public issue where the MSM got it right? Well, consider how we paper train a puppy. We scold the puppy when it misses the paper. But we praise the puppy when it does go on the paper. Consider this as praise for the puppy, MSNBC.

The program used two men to present most of the story. One was Tim Donnelly, founder of the Minuteman of California, to watch the borders for illegal immigration. The other was Enrique Marones, the leader of the Border Angels, which opposed the efforts of the Minutemen to close the borders to the “hard-working Mexicans who are just looking for a better life.” The Angels put out food and water for illegals on the US side of the border.

Donnelly came first, and the program was careful to point out that his wife, who was also interviewed, was a legal immigrant from the Philippines. He said he was acting out of “a deep love for my country.” He wanted all who entered the US to come in legally. He emphasized that none of his attitudes had anything to do with race. As he said, “I don’t care what color you are. If you reach a port of entry and you have the proper documents, welcome to America.”

Enrique Marones came second, and he decried “the vigilantes” who are “racist migrant hunters.” He repeated that charge about “hunting the migrants” in a press interview in Mexico which was taped for this documentary. Then, the program presented the facts which had to do with this inflammatory charge. It noted that there were no reported instances of any of the Minutemen ever shooting at any immigrant, legal or otherwise.

It also presented a segment when a member was instructing other Minutemen about the weapons some of them were legally carrying. He said, “The only time you’re going to pull that weapon out is if you’re in imminent danger.”

One more item which was purely visual, also demonstrated that the producers of this documentary were not biased in favor of illegal immigrants. When they interviewed Marones sitting in his car, the camera picked up dozens of political buttons on his dashboard and visor, including one for Kerry-Edwards and one for Che Guevare. If bias were afoot, that clip would have hit the cutting room floor.

The only clinker in the entire piece was near the end when it reported that “the month-long border watch... brought few apprehensions.” The missing fact there was that the Border Patrol itself reported that illegal immigration went down by about two-thirds during this critical month. This was the factual proof that more people on the border, even civilians with binoculars and cell phones, had a dramatic and positive effect on illegal immigration.

MSNBC deserves praise for preparing and presenting it.