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Yes, even Judy Woodruff has opinions -- and expresses them despite saying she doesn't

Judy Woodruff holds forth at TCA confab for NewsHour. PBS photo

This might seem a little nitpicky. And even though it's aimed at Judy Woodruff, it's not entirely meant to single her out for what she said Monday regarding President Obama's impending State of the Union Address.

Woodruff in reality is no more "guilty" than many others when it comes to outwardly objective journalists being asked to express their opinions. And then freely giving them in return.

Woodruff is the lightning rod here, though. That's because she got quite holier-than-thou earlier this month during a session for PBS' NewsHour at the Television Critics Association "press tour" in Pasadena, CA.

Panelists, pictured above, were asked what they thought of NPR's firing of Juan Williams last October after he told Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly about his unease in traveling with plane passengers clad in "Muslim garb." His employer said Williams had violated NPR's policy against expressing personal opinions. Doing so was "inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR," management said in a statement. FNC then quickly signed Williams to a new contract with a pay rise.

Woodruff, a recurring guest on NBC's Meet the Press, told TV writers that opinion "has risen in value, if you will" on some news outlets. "It's easier for us (on NewsHour) because we don't do opinion. We just don't do it. And people can say, 'Well, you do analysis and you do this and you do that.' But there's a difference. Opinion is what you personally think about something. And you know it when you see it. You can smell it. And we don't do it."

She went on to describe Williams' dismissal as "unfortunate," but wouldn't elaborate. At this point, I asked Woodruff about being "asked all the time (on Meet the Press and other Sunday morning chat shows) to analyze races . . . "

"And I don't answer those questions," Woodruff interjected.

"Well, but tons of journalists do," I said, contending that "they have you on those shows not to do a recitation of what's going on in the world but to give your opinion of what you think about it."

"I'll beg to differ," Woodruff said. "When I go on, I prepare as carefully as I can. I talk to a lot of people . . . and I report what people have been telling me about how they view certain things. But I don't sit there and say, 'I think the President did something dumb this week.' Or, 'I think Speaker (John) Boehner did a fabulous job' . . . It's not about me. And I think there's a difference."

This brings us to an email sent Monday, alerting TV writers to a new "State of the Union preview video" posted to NewsHour's "Rundown blog." In the video, Woodruff and NewsHour political editor David Chalian "discuss expectations for the speech, the president's political posture, and more," the email said.

I watched the video, during which Woodruff tells Chalian, "He's (Obama) coming into the State of the Union in a stronger position. And I think that gives him a little more leeway to do what the White House wants, and not be so defensive about explaining what they want to do."

Wait a minute. Did Woodruff say "I think?" How dare she use those words. Wasn't she expressing a personal opinion about the Obama administration supposedly righting itself of late and gaining a more advantageous position for Tuesday night's big speech? Nowhere in the 5 minute, 18 second video does Woodruff say she had talked to political leaders who said they felt that way.

So shouldn't Woodruff be fired? No, of course not. Because virtually everybody in TV news would be sacked if they were held to such an impossible standard.

Woodruff shouldn't be so sanctimonious, however, in putting NewsHour or herself on a pedestal. In doing so, she leaves herself open to heightened scrutiny. And frankly, to regurgitate her words, I know opinion when I see it. I can smell it. And Woodruff in fact does do it.