Edward Fouhy

Very few people have the opportunity to sit back and study how their job affects the outside world.

But television news reporter and producer Edward Fouhy will spend his semester-long stint at the Institute of Politics (IOP) doing just that.

While at Harvard, Fouhy says he plans to examine the press and its coverage of politics, something with which he has been closely involved for almost a quarter of a century.

Fouhy, who has been a television news reporter, a producer and a news executive with all three major television networks, says he wants to study the way the media covers the current presidential race.

"After 23 years of hitting daily deadlines, it's good to have an opportunity to reflect and to look at the large picture instead of the tiny little jigsaw pieces that you see every day in daily journalism," says Fouhy, who has been a network bureau chief in Washington, Saigon and Los Angeles.

In his IOP-sponsored study group, "The Press and the Primaries: Campaign '88," Fouhy says he will look at what goes into the political coverage. The group will try to answer the questions: "what it is that [the media] sees, how the decisions arrived at the shape they see. In other words, what are the pressures on editors, columnists, reporters, producers," Fouhy says.

"It's a particularly good place during the time while primaries are going on," Fouhy says. "I'm teaching a study group on the press and the primary system, so we can just look at the morning's newspaper and the evening's television and we've got a head-start on our study group."

The television news veteran says he is generally satisfied with the coverage of the presidential race. However, he criticized the tendency to over-emphasize the significance of tracking polls in the early primaries.

Although Democratic candidate Gary Hart has criticized the media's handling of his campaign, Fouhy says he supports the way the press has closely scrutinized Hart's personal life.

"I would strongly defend the reporting that was done in the Gary Hart case," Fouhy says. "I'm not going to say there was not a certain amount of smiling done on the part of some publications about the details of "Hart's liaison with Miami model Donna Rice.

"But [he is] a serious candidate for president, long rumored to be something of a libertine in those matters. [He] challenges reporters to follow him, swears he's not involved in anything like that in this campaign and then immediately after giving an interview saying these things files off to an assignation, "Fouhy says. "Sure, I think it was well within the bounds of reporting on a presidential candidate," for Miami Herald reporters to lie in wait for Hart outside the house where he met Rice.

"I think people are entitled to know as much as possible about a candidate for president," says Fouhy, who covered the Civil Rights movement during the 1960s. "Even their private lives [are subject to scrutiny], if in their private lives we learn something about their characters and how they will behave as presidents."

"Richard Nixon was on the national ticket five times and not enough reporting was done about what sort of character the man had. [It] later shaped how he behaved in the White House," says Fouhy, who travelled with Nixon on his state visits abroad.

Fouhy has had various jobs in his television journalism career. After commanding a U.S. Marine Corps battalion in Beirut, Fouhy got a job in television news as a reporter and producer in 1961, a time when "TV was an up and coming medium," he says.

Unlike many people involved in television news, Fouhy never became strictly tied to a particular network. He served as a bureau chief for ABC, directed political coverage at NBC News, was director of CBS News and worked on NBC Nightly News as executive producer.

Fouhy says he moved from network to network because he decided to become what he termed a "free agent" whenever his three-year contracts expired.

The IOP offered Fouhy a chance to join a community of scholars with similar interests and to step back from his job to get a better look at the political scene, he says.

While in Cambridge, Fouhy says he intends to sit in on poetry and philosophy classes and visit MIT's media lab, where a group of social and computer scientists are looking at merging television and computer technology.

When his stint at Harvard is over in June, Fouhy says he will either return to the television news world or enter academia on a more permanent basis.