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From free trade to the Kosovo crisis

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What to Do About the Media Mess

September 2, 2002

Periodically, we've made recommendations about what can be done to address the mess that is today’s U.S. news media. In that spirit, here is another suggestion: a television outlet that devotes a major portion of its daily schedule to covering what potential Democratic presidential contenders are saying and doing.

Currently, almost every word uttered by George W. Bush -- no matter how repetitive -- is carried live by major cable outlets, such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and C-SPAN. A great deal of attention is given, too, to speeches by Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials of the Bush administration.

Yet, the man who got more votes in Election 2000, Al Gore, rarely gets to make his case directly to the American people. Indeed, most of what the public hears about Gore’s speeches is filtered through the hostility and ridicule of cable-news TV commentators and other pundits. Unwilling to admit how unfair their coverage of Gore was in 2000, these high-paid talking heads are picking up where they left off -- and the American people have no TV outlet to turn to for relief, with the possible exception of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

Beyond the virtual black-out of Gore's speeches, the public gets only occasional talk-show snippets from other potential Democratic candidates – the likes of Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Tom Daschle, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Gov. Howard Dean. The American people also rarely hear from former President Clinton.

To level the political playing field somewhat, doesn’t it make sense to create a television outlet that covers what these politicians are doing and saying? This TV station – which could be distributed via satellite, digital cable, the Internet and possibly other means – would have cameras following Gore and other leading Democratic politicians as they make their way around the country. The station also could report other news and events that get short shrift in the current American news media.

While letting the American people hear what the Democrats are saying, the existence of such a station would put pressure on the contenders to weigh in more decisively on issues facing the country and the world. In effect, the Democrats would have to sharpen their political messages or risk losing the attention of viewers.

The story of the Democratic political competition also could make for compelling reality TV. The journalistic style of the broadcasts could be like the documentary “Boiler Room,” with reporting on behind-the-scenes maneuvering as well as out-front public appearances. The station could become “must-see” TV for people interested in the political process from Main Street USA to the K Street power corridor of Washington.

With a growing audience, the station could be attractive to advertisers, too. 

The trick, as always, is to find the people with resources who can turn ideas into reality. We've sent this proposal to a few individuals, but so far without much luck. So, we’re asking readers to send this plan to anyone they know who could make a difference. Report back to us any progress.

Responses or comments can be sent to [email protected]

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