For years, John Stossel was an oddity on network television. He was a news correspondent allowed to present a strong point of view, first as ABC's crusading consumer reporter, then as a contrarian defender of corporate interests. Stossel has now left ABC for Fox Business Network.
As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, his career path captures many of the changes in the news business.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: John Stossel is making the transition from the tightly edited taped world of network news to live cable TV.
Mr. JOHN STOSSEL (News Correspondent): Maybe we can have bigger note cards.
Unidentified Woman: Not if you want them printed like this.
FOLKENFLIK: To judge by a rehearsal earlier this week, change can be stressful.
Unidentified Man: Good first rehearsal, everybody.
Mr. STOSSEL: Really? It feels recklessly confused...
(Soundbite of laughter)
FOLKENFLIK: You probably remember John Stossel. It's hard to forget that mustache and that tone of voice, as in his cheeky introduction to last night's debut of the weekly self-titled "Stossel" on Fox Business.
Mr. STOSSEL: The globe is warming. Sea levels are going to rise. Does that mean that all these people are going to drown? I'll be okay. I've got a lifejacket and a raft. But are all these other people going to die?
FOLKENFLIK: Stossel couldn't be more upfront about having a point of view. In fact, in an interview on the set, Stossel says he moved from bashing businesses to realizing most of society's ills stem from another source.
Mr. STOSSEL: We want mommy government to take care of us and any child wants mommy and daddy to step in. And if you're really not economically literate, you think that the specialists in Washington and state capitals can plan our lives better than we can.
FOLKENFLIK: And so last night's first hour of "Stossel" mocked politicians and scientists, the elites who share concerns about climate change.
Miles O'Brien covered science, space and the environment for CNN for 17 years. He says Stossel is honest about where he's coming from and that that's the direction American journalism is headed. But O'Brien also says it's troubling that Stossel is cherry-picking his facts.
Mr. MILES O'BRIEN (Former CNN Correspondent): I'd be very curious if John Stossel � if we had him on the conference call right now � if he would call himself a journalist in the purest sense. He's an advocate. He is somebody who stimulates discussion. He's a provocateur. But is he a journalist?
FOLKENFLIK: Actually, Fox calls Stossel an opinion show host and he has different boss than the reporters do.
Richard Wald was his boss as senior vice president for editorial quality at ABC News in the 1990s. He says Stossel was a valuable counterpoint to lazy reporting that relied upon liberal assumptions. But Wald added a caution.
Mr. RICHARD WALD (Senior Vice President for Editorial Quality, ABC News): Some of the criticism was that what he was doing wasn't based on fact, it was based on opinion. And to that extent, I think that his reporting, his reports suffered.
FOLKENFLIK: He's been a vocal ideological figure off the air too. In October, for example, Stossel addressed Americans for Prosperity. The group is financed largely by the libertarian billionaire David Koch and fosters opposition to Democratic health care proposals. Stossel was similarly skeptical on ABC earlier this year.
Mr. STOSSEL: But wait a sec. Health insurance means someone else pays your bill.
FOLKENFLIK: Stossel says ABC came to be a bad fit.
Mr. STOSSEL: Sure, they had more air time and they are open to most everything. At ABC, you would have 100 meetings about what was appropriate, and I had many ideas they did not want to do. It's the main reason I came to Fox, �cause I wanted to do those things.
FOLKENFLIK: During last night's show on climate change, his like-minded guests were the experts challenged only by a few college kids in the audience.
Mr. STOSSEL: Hey, I don't think there's enough libertarian media out there. So this is a libertarian show. I'm going to favor libertarians.
FOLKENFLIK: For Stossel, his new life at Fox Business means no apologies for ideology.
David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.