hard heads soft hearts
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
I wrote this in the comments section of jeff jarvis's weblog, and then realized it was too darn long for a comment:
I think cable TV, and to a lesser extent, radio, are dead-ends for liberals. The problem is that the customers for those businesses aren't viewers, they're advertisers. To give a small example, Andrew Tobias (www.andrewtobias.com), a smart and sensible liberal, has written one of the best (and funniest) personal finance books ever, "The Only Investment Guide you'll ever need". Assuming he has basic TV skills, he could, I'm sure, create a great and wildly successful show on investing and personal finance. The problem is that most of the advertisors on such shows are big brokerage firms, and big companies in general, and that the good, sound, advice and information Tobias gives will often, though certainly not always, run counter to their financial interests.
Joe Conason once wrote that he had been intervied for a slot on Fox News, but later got word that he had been black-listed by someone high up in the organization. And it is not an accident, I think, that smart, effective liberals like Josh Marshall and Paul Krugman and Jonathan Chait aren't on TV more. Producers like predictable people, who will say predictable things. Someone like Krugman or Marshall or Chait, who know more about policy and will not be manipulated into saying things the producers and hosts want to hear, are deeply disturbing to them. Even C-Span, follows this pattern. Brian Lamb is a moderate Republican with a libertarian bent, and you'll notice that the left of center people on C-Span are usually bland, non- confrontational establishment people, like Frank Rich, or far to the left, like Cornel West.
Non-establishment liberals, like Josh Marshall, are rare, and people who really like to mix it up with conservatives and are effective at doing it, like Krugman and Chait, are non-existent.
At this point I run the risk of being paranoid, and perhaps that's true. But it's not only me. The current Washinton Monthly has an article by a business journalist asserting that advertiser pressure is a key reason that business journalism stinks.
Also, let me just say that I think the solution is the internet, and specifically a liberal organization that produces trustworthy, reliable Consumer Reports-like information on non-ideological subjects, and uses the credibility derived from that to build a respected news and political organization, with perhaps a mild liberal bias.