Tube Talk: Factual political coverage

By Paula Hendrickson

There comes a time in every presidential election where party rhetoric and PAC-funded attack ads really start to frustrate open-minded voters who prefer facts over hyperbole so they can make informed decisions come election day.

Unfortunately that’s something most cable news shows seem unable to provide as the same handful of spin doctors and candidate supporters are on live TV dodging anchors’ questions and talking over one another to regurgitate dubious “facts” they hope will sway viewers to their respective sides.

If you’re looking for a non-partisan, fact-based dissection of political news, don’t miss Matter of Fact with Fernando Espuelas. The national, weekly, half-hour talk show airs locally on MyTV Sunday mornings at 8:30.

I’ve interviewed Espuelas a couple of times in the past year, and admire his way of making sense of – and often poking holes in – complex and over-hyped political arguments.

“We want to make information understandable in a larger context,” Espuelas told me a few months back. “How does whatever the topic may be impact the United States? How does it impact families? How does it impact the future of this country?”

All guests, high-ranking or not, are held to the same standard.

“The whole concept of Matter of Fact is that we scrutinize information through empirical data,” he said. “We scrutinize the facts. So if someone comes on the program and states something that is objectively wrong – by which I mean it can be proved to be false – we will not hesitate to correct that, whether it happens during the interview or in an information box we’ll put underneath in post-production.”

Espuelas isn’t afraid to challenge his guests’ statements.

“If I know something to be objectively false, I will correct it. For many politicians, that is anathema – you’re picking on them, you’re picking a fight, you’re being pugnacious – when in reality you’re doing your job. You’re not there to be a megaphone for someone’s personal view of reality. I’m fighting for my audience. I’m making sure the information that gets on the air is interesting, fresh, but also factually correct.”

Even better? Unlike some political talk shows, Espuelas doesn’t give guests his questions in advance. While he researches the guest and topic in advance, he allows the conversation to unfold organically. That reduces the odds of a politician or spokesperson answering in sound bites or rehearsed answers.

“My mission isn’t to make this person say this or that. My mission is to inform my audience,” he said. As for guests’ comments, “I may or may not agree with them, but I have to play the role of a healthy skeptic.”

When watching the primary debates earlier this year, Espuelas said he grew tired of hearing politicians implying that America is weak, be it economically or militarily. He then rattled off facts disproving some candidates’ statements before saying, “Can we just use math to see if those claims are true or not?”

Common sense. Math. Facts. Three things that sum up Matter of Fact.

Programming Note

Matter of Fact with Fernando Espuelas airs Sunday mornings at 8:30 on MyTV (Cablevision 16).


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