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John Stossel
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Dump the Audience?

Comment

After my first two new Fox Business shows (http://tinyurl.com/ycjkxjb), I'm taking a break for Christmas and the New Year's holiday. We resume Thursday, Jan. 7.

Again, I ask your help. Last time, most of you said: Go with global warming for the first show — "Atlas Shrugged" can wait — and so I did (http://tinyurl.com/yl9u3a8). "Atlas" will be the first show after the holidays.

Today, I need your help in deciding what to do with the studio audience. I wanted an audience because I enjoy speaking on college campuses and I love the spontaneous give-and-take.

Students passionately pose questions like, "How can you defend business when free markets brought us to the crisis we suffer now?!"

I like explaining that what I defend isn't business but economic freedom and markets. Businessmen — with some honorable exceptions — are usually happy to collude with government to stifle competition and harm consumers and workers. I hate that.

And anyway, it was not free markets, but meddling politicians, bureaucrats and central bankers, along with their corporate cronies, who created today's problems.

I even think I convince some of the students. It's lots of fun.

But I haven't done so well with my studio audience. Viewers have noticed (http://tinyurl.com/yadu6bb).

Rob: "Ditch the audience! I had to stop watching the show last night on health care "reform" as I couldn't take any more of the stupid comments from the audience. "Lower audience interruption (applause and booing) to allow more discussion. Your 2007 health care special 'Sick in America, Whose Body Is It Anyway?" was more informative than the interruptive health care show tonight.

Brad Jones: "Love the show, hate the audience. Where do you find these people? I think you're better to do the show without an audience!"

Kevin: "John, PLEASE get rid of the live studio audience and get back to reporting. The audience makes your show rather cheesy."

OK, I hear you. I admit I am "clunky with the audience," as one viewer put it. On the other hand, maybe I'll get better. I'm new at it. And as several emailers said, allowing the opposition to speak is a better way to convince people:

Mark: "Love the show! Like the format.

It gives the opportunity to directly address and confront opposing ideas.

Tim: "I like to hear what real people have to say about topics."

So do I. So did Ben Franklin, who wrote in his autobiography: "By the collision of different sentiments, sparks of truth strike out, and political light is obtained" ("The Completed Autobiography," p. 335).

I agree. It's intellectually lazy to do shows where everyone is in agreement. There are plenty of those on other networks. We libertarians thrive on debate with the statists. Bring it on!

So I'll try the audience a few more times. I'll search out statists who make their case more clearly, and I'll experiment with the role of the audience.

One of the many advantages of working for Fox is that they're willing to try things. They're eager to experiment. If it doesn't work, we'll drop the audience.

Economist Mark Skousen (http://tinyurl.com/ybrje7r) made some other good points about last week's health care show:

"Imagine if LBJ had pushed through Congress a program called 'Food Care' along with Medicare? Food prices would be going through the roof, and food would be a major political football.

"Why isn't food a major debate issue? Because LBJ only gave us the Food Stamp program, which has a means test to it, so that it applies only to the poor (family of four making $25,000 or less).

"... I also like the idea of converting Medicare (and Medicaid) into HSAs (health savings accounts), as Steve Forbes recommends in his new book, 'How Capitalism Will Save Us' (excellent book)."

I don't favor "Medicine Stamps." I'd rather work to remove the dozens of ways government makes medical care and insurance artificially expensive. In the meantime, charitable institutions will help the poor.

But Skousen makes good points. I should have mentioned them. Every time I finish one of these live TV programs, I think of eight things I should have said.

I'll keep working at it. Maybe I'll get better.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="http://www.johnstossel.com" <http://www.johnstossel.com>>johnstossel.com</a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

13 Comments | Post Comment
John,

I like the show, a lot, but the audience is wasteful. Authenticity is great - so, invite a guest from each side. Someone with credentials, someone who is published, someone who can be checked out so we can filter their point of view ourselves. Stream some résumé of each guest (published articles, etc.) So, if we're watching with internet available, we can check 'em out.

The audience are like internet comments. Who are these people? How do we know they're not crazy? I count on you to find folks who can be trusted to articulate their points, and have articulated them previously so they can do so succinctly. There are lots of internet trolls. We don't need to waste time with questionable audience trolls, or people who just mouth talking points.

An audience would be more useful from a research point of view to make sure you're covering everything, but not for a live broadcast.

my 2˘.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Paul
Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:28 AM
John,
I also found the audience interaction to be awkward and uncomfortable to watch but I don't think it was you. I think it was the audience. I agree with the premise of hearing from both sides, but as a viewer, I'm a little put off by people who voice opinions (from either side) who clearly have no understanding of the issue and have invested no time or effort to understand.

If it's logistically possible to do a better job of screening and preparing the audience members who will be speaking in order to put forward those who can articulate a thoughtful comment—great idea. If not, dump it. I can't bear to watch.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Randy
Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:58 PM
John, keep the audience. The goal here is to spread reason, and the unreasonable left and right will not tune into a show that is a one-sided debate. I strongly encourage you to keep doing your documentary-style journalism (perhaps monthly or quarterly documentaries), but the debate encouraged by having a dissenting audience will sway more opinions than a show like O'Reilly's. Keep up the great work, John. I applaud you.
Comment: #3
Posted by: J.P. Arendt
Thu Dec 24, 2009 12:38 PM
&#65279;December 26, 2009
Dear John Stossel. Good Article. Your readers might like to know about the following.
Kay Hagan (you know, the new US Senator from Greensboro that's going along
with all the 'legislation' so she, too, can get that high dollar salary and retirement), said
and I QUOTE "I'd say that Harry Reid knows how to
get 60 votes, and that was very important to our country in order to move
forward with thhat legislation." "Bribing" the blood-sucking ticks (has
been done too many times) is nothing to be proud of, Ms. Hagan! Corruption
and greed is what most politicians are all about. Ms. Hagan, politicians
have accomplished absolutely nothing in several decades! Politicians have
bankrupted America, sold Americans jobs to foreign countries, for their
own best interests, borrowed trillions, without Taxpayers consent, and you
have the audacity to state this 'healthcare disaster is very important to
our country!' Taxpayers would like to know "when have you read the fine
print in anything that benefited Americans?" "Did you bother to save the
textile and manufacturing companies?" "Do you know that until textile and
manufacturing jobs are returned to America that America is doomed, and
there's absolutely no need for infrastructures, bigger government, as
there will be no one to pay Taxes, including your high-dollar salary,
retirements, and freebies?"
You see, Ms. Hagan, you're just like the rest of the 'blood-sucking ticks'
and it's obvious you'll go along with any 'DEAL MAKING PROGRAMS' the
corrupt and greedy politicians like Reid, Pelosi, Rangel, Frank, Dodd,
just to name a few, have lingered over for several decades, for job
security, and to hell with the honest, hard-working American!
Ms. Hagan, bribery is a crime and you and your politician buddies might
think you're above the law, but your time is coming and, hopefully, real
soon as America can't afford anymore ‘disastrous legislation that been around the table,
repreatedly, for several decades!'
For the people who don't know what's happening to America and that one
trillion has 12 Zeros, and "a zillion is undetermined, because it is
huge", and this 'healthcare reform' that's gone on for years - job security
for politicians, bankruptcy for Taxpayers - should concern everyone!
Politicians got raises and bonuses! Taxpayers received no raise, insurance
premiums were raised! Politicians get the best of healthcare, drugs, and
insurance. Taxpayers get the leftovers; including higher insurance
premiums and even higher co-pays for their GENERIC drugs.
=============================================================

If you're concerned about your children and grandchilden, you need to watch Newt
Gingrich's video. He gets paid to tell a story - the one above and below, by me is 'FREE'!
==========================================================

Please watch the video below (send along to
everyone). Newt Gingrich is 'on target' with what he's saying.
WHAT TAXPAYERS ARE SAYING 'IT'S TIME TO TAKE AMERICA BACK, GET RID F ALL
POLITICIANS BY PUTTING THEM ON A SLOW BOAT TO GITMO, TAKE ALL HEIR ASSETS
TO PAY OFF THE TRILLIONS THEY'VE BORROWED WITHOUT TAXPAYRS CONSENT,
AND
WE MUST 'NOT' FORGET TO SEND ALONG THE LOCAL, STATE, FEDERAL PRISONERS,
SOCIAL AND WELFARE RECIPIENTS!
IT'S TIME TO TIGHTEN THE BELTS AND PULL UP THE BOOT STRAPS AND GO 'KICK >
BUTT' - REMOVE ALL 'BLOOD-SUCKING TICKS' FROM THEIR OFFICES, TAKE EYS,
CARS, AND ANYTHING THEY POSSESS, AS THESE GREEDY AND CORRUPT SLOBS
HAVE
DESTROYED AMERICA AND SOLD TAXPAYERS OUT FOR THE HIGHEST DOLLAR FOR
THEIR
RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS, WHICH, INCIDENTALLY, TAXPAYERS NEED TO MAKE SURE
WHERE ALL THEIR FOREIGN BANK ACCOUNTS ARE, SO THIS MONEY CAN BE USED
TO
PAY OFF THE TRILLIONS, WHICH IS GOING TO BE NEEDED TO BUILD AMERICA BACK,
NOT THE FOREIGN COUNTRIES! AFTER 9/11 - DID FOREIGNERS BUILD AMERICA
BACK?
I DON'T THINK SO!
POLITICIANS HAVE COMMITTED 'TREASON' ON THE AMERICA TAXPAYERS - THEY'VE
SOLD OUT AMERICA AND THIS, TO HONEST-HARD-WORKING TAXPAYERS, THEY MUST
PAY
BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!
BY THE WAY, NO MORE LOBBYISTS, DRUG AND INSURANCE COMPANIES, ACLU,
ATTORNEYS, GIVING MONEY TO ANY POLITICIAN, AS TAXPAYERS ARE FED UP WITH
PAYING FOR ALL THE POLITICIANS 'FREEBIES' AND 'HOLLYWOOOD PARTIES',
'EXTRAVAGANT AND PLUSH LIFESTYLES', THAT'S COST TAXPAYERS THEIR JOBS
AND THEIR SECURITY! DOES THIS SEEM 'FAIR AND JUST TO ANYONE?' I DON'T KNOW
ABOUT YOU, BUT I WANT MY MONEY BACK, SINCE WE'VE BEEN OVERCHARGED FOR
INSURANCE AND DRUGS JUST TO PAY FOR THE POLITICIANS AND THEIR
LIFESTYLES!
==========================================================
You have got to listen to this short speech by Newt Gingrich!!
Notice that no mention of political parties is made. Like him or not he tells it like it is.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=US&v=qtjfMjjce2Y
Comment: #4
Posted by: Shirley deLong
Sun Dec 27, 2009 11:01 AM
John, ditch the audience. Spirited debate and differing points of view are good, but good debate requires intelligence and some regard for the rules of the game. There is no guarantee that you will get either from audience members, and they may represent a deadweight loss in terms of show quality without you being able to do anything about it.

If you want spirited discussion, consider a format that allows for exchange of differing views among invited guests. Finest debater I can think of was Buckley; you might review a few airings of Firing Line and consider something like it.
Comment: #5
Posted by: John Pirie
Sun Dec 27, 2009 2:09 PM
Love the show! Best healthcare debate I've seen so far and I've watched them all.

You hit the nail on the head. People abuse insurance because they disassociate from the costs. That's what is destroying the homeowner's and commercial insurance industry in Florida as well as the healthcare industry.

Keep the audience. I'm tired of the pundits and their talking points. Most American's tune them out because they don't trust them. Let's hear from real Americans. Sometimes new ideas are introduced into the debate. Other times simple misconceptions are cleared up.

AIR THAT SHOW AGAIN ON FOX!!!
Comment: #6
Posted by: Opinionated2
Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:36 AM
Re: Randy

Educated and informed individuals have already made up their minds in this debate. Yes, some comments were ignorant but they represent the views of millions. They are precisely the people that need to be brought into the debate and educated. Besides, watching those naive "know-it-alls" face the facts is fun. Call me perverse.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Opinionated2
Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:52 AM
John, please get rid of the audience. About five minutes in, your program begins to sound like the Jerry Springer Show, with the audience beginning to cheer and boo at will. Your guests have to take repeated pauses for audience interruption, which detracts from their answers to your questions. Your moving between stage and crowd is clunky (not your actual movements, but it detracts from the show's flow), and nobody can figure out to stand when you ask for audience opinion. We also see too much of the set, which gives the show a low budget appearance.

I thoroughly enjoyed your previous work. While I'm sure the new show is supposed to have a different look (less production, more spontaneity), I don't think it is working quite right. The first two shows make you look like less of an authority, which was a big part of your appeal at ABC.

Good topics for the first two shows.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Ryan
Tue Dec 29, 2009 4:10 PM
Mr. Stossel,

You should come and shoot a show in Atlanta, GA! There are two definite advantages to this idea.

One, you will find a different political leaning here in the Deep South – think “Tea Party Patriots” and Fair Tax Fanatics”.

Two, it would allow me to see your show live!

I really enjoy your new show and wish you and your family all the best in 2010.

Warmest Regards,

Rhonda
Comment: #9
Posted by: Rhonda
Thu Dec 31, 2009 7:58 PM
Mr. Stossel,

You should come and shoot a show in Atlanta, GA! There are two definite advantages to this idea.

One, you will find a different political leaning here in the Deep South – think “Tea Party Patriots” and Fair Tax Fanatics”.

Two, it would allow me to see your show live!

I really enjoy your new show and wish you and your family all the best in 2010.

Warmest Regards,

Rhonda
Comment: #10
Posted by: Rhonda
Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:00 PM
Most of the time I think you should have a typical show with about half monologue and half dialogue. I did love your special reports on ABC so once in a while it would be nice to see something like that again. The studio audience isn't all bad, but if you're going to have one they should be a bigger part of the program. No point in having them if you only talk to two of them and they're creating a mix of applause and booing. Whatever you decide, remember to keep it fair and balanced.
Comment: #11
Posted by: TastyWheat
Tue Jan 5, 2010 10:21 PM
John,
I say dump the audience. What the lefty loons are going to say is so predictble that it is a waste of time to listen to them go on and then have to deal with their sophmoric questions. Students are perhaps the most brain washed group in America. By the time they get out of high school the great majority think that Ameirca is an evil, selfish nation and the fount of all that is bad in the world. College just makes them more convinced and self righteous. I would rather have the whole hour filled with good solid information.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Chuck Burns
Thu Jan 7, 2010 8:27 PM
Hey John, first off thank you for having a forum to have a way to actually share ideas/thoughts that actually get to you. Dump the audience? Sometimes it's kind of cheesy and the look and feel of the studio feels that way too (it is fox studio though :). Your content is so so good and I really wanna see your show explode cause you are bringing up great topics and you are fair at looking at both sides of the story. I choose not to watch tv cause of all the b/s out there but I found your show on YouTube and have been telling friends about your show all the time. You are tackling hard hitting subjects with purpose and not sugar coating your content. I do have a show topic that I know you would like and would also bring big ratings to your show. Get Congressman Ron Paul on your show!! Everytime I watch your show, I keep thinking this would be your ideal dream guest based on your views of government, free markets, freedom, health care and the list goes on. I'm sure you know about Ron Paul's Audit the Fed Bill that has gotten so much support with over 316+ co-sponsors (100+democrats) maybe you can create awareness of that topic since 80% of the American people think an Audit of the Fed would be a good idea. Invite Alan Grayson with him to get the bi-partisan view. Or have Ron Paul debate Ben Stein on Foreign Policy. If you actually read this I thank you!!, it's cool that my voice all the way in Orange County, CA can be heard by someone like you. Pretty cool! Thanks again and keep up the great work, you leaving 20/20 has given you a bigger place to share your voice. Oh, get this show on Hulu.com to give more chance for people to check out your show.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Travis Balthasar
Sat Jan 9, 2010 3:09 AM
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