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Friday, March 25, 2005


I've been waiting for so long to have the, "Senator, have you no decency?" moment with this administration, this congress, this Republican Media Complex.

But sometimes irony, that no script writer could devise, stands up and takes control of the national debate. Could it be happening here?

Here is the irony of ironies.

We have been looking for intelligent, reasoned leaders to emerge and wake middle America from their slumber. We have waited for the pithy argument, the devastating hypocritical moment, the unarguable financial facts pointing toward doom to stir Mr. & Mrs. Kansas Red-Stater and make them see the misguided man behind the curtain.

We've lived through Deans, Kerrys, Kenny Boys, TANG Memos, Armstrongs, Richard Clarkes, Torture Memos, Clear Channels, Gannons and Unfound WMDs. Nothing, but nothing seemed to shake them out of their slumber. As SusanG has said (and I've heard her say it) "the country's outrage meters are broken."

And then what happens? The Gods of Irony strike.

Who is the messenger who pulls back the curtain? The one person who has succeeded where the best political minds and millions of dollars haven't? A woman who hasn't been able to utter a word for the past fifteen years. A woman who, when she could speak, wasn't political. A woman who doesn't even realize the stakes involved in her situation or isn't aware on any level of the issues of the day in America or around the world.
A total innocent who made no choice by her own will to even involve in the debate.

Yet her fate has brought a savage backlash against those who have attempted to use her as a political football and struck at the overreaching core of power in Florida, Washington and congressional districts around the country. The power centers are shaking and soon riding stationary, back-peddling bicycles will be the exercise of choice among GOP blabberheads.

Why did this happen? I think it's because she is the essence of innocence. She has no agenda. She has no political ideology. She is clearly the victim of political power gone mad...not unlike the soldier many years ago in front of McCarthy's hearings. Then, too, America had had enough. Then, too, an apparent innocent was dragged in front of a power-hungry, fear driven arm of government oppression and asked to account for himself, and it was one act of inhumanity too many and the house came crumbling down.

Am I sorry that it has come to this? You bet. Do I see Ms. Schiavo as a hero? Certainly not. Is her role in all this a willing one? No. Is it really any of my business? None. I'm just watching.

But irony has stepped in. Fate is writing the script. History may look back on this awful week and marvel at the political power offered up by someone who can't raise her hand to scratch her nose, or tell the world how silly it's behaving.

Yes. I have been waiting for this moment, but it's difficult to relish. If I could, I would exchange the possibility that this moment could be the beginning of the end for an oppressive, inhuman administration for Ms. Schiavo to be given the ability to sit up in her bed, smile at her husband and parents and say, "Good morning."

But irony doesn't work that way, I'm afraid.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Wednesday, March 23, 2005


So, I'm reading the Times this morning and I come across an indicting, straight-to-the-point article spelling out exactly what is wrong with the RWCM and the resulting threat to our democracy. However, there was no mention of such in the title or body of the article.

The article was titled,

CNN Seeks New Ways to Battle Fox News

It seems the folks at CNN/Time/Warner have had their corporate panties in a bunch for the past four years about profits and ratings...or shall I say lack of them. Fox has been kicking their ass.

Their answer? To go through five heads of domestic operations in four years looking for that magic touch that will bring them closer to advertising gold. The most recent new head is Jonathan Klein.

How does he plan to take CNN to the promised land? It doesn't seem to be on the back of the donkey of journalistic excellence and accuracy.

Let's have a view into their thinking:

Mr. Klein has told his staff that that he wants to increase the average amount of time viewers spend watching CNN's prime-time lineup by an average of 30 seconds a month for the next 12 months - for what would be a total gain of six minutes.

Lest there be any doubt that those six minutes are crucial, consider the following: the typical viewer who tunes in to Fox News's prime-time lineup - including the programs of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity - watches for an average of 26 minutes before switching channels, according to CNN's internal research. On average, viewers tune out CNN's prime-time hosts - including Mr. Brown, Mr. King and Paula Zahn - after just 19 minutes.

That gap in average viewing time has had a profound impact on CNN's ratings: thus far this season, its average audience between 7 and 11 p.m. (775,000) is far less than Fox's during the same time period (two million) , according to Nielsen Media Research. (As recently as four years ago, CNN was drawing more viewers than Fox News at night.)

Meeting Mr. Klein's goal would have a tangible impact on the network's bottom line - a former executive at another network estimated that those extra six minutes of viewing time could add more than $10 million to CNN's annual advertising revenue, which, according to TNS Media Intelligence, was nearly $440 million. To do so, Mr. Klein will have to somehow locate a holy grail that has thus far eluded his immediate predecessors.

This is what clued me in to the unintended true topic of this article. In the entire narrative about Mr. Klein's dilemma and proposed solution, there was no mention of journalistic ethics or quality news reporting.

The only reference to editorial content was:

In an effort to narrow the gap with Fox at night, Mr. Klein has ruled out one obvious option: he will not, he says, turn CNN's prime-time lineup into a liberal counterpunch to Fox's opinion-driven programming, which draws a heavily conservative audience. "It's much better to be right down the middle," Mr. Klein said in an interview. "Moderates are our sweet spot."

Now you might be gagging at the "sweet spot" reference as I did, but there is a more troubling issue reflected in both the article's content and what it ignored.

This was a rather prominently placed column (front page Arts Section) about programming at a 24 Hour News Outlet and not a single word was devoted to the quality of their product. They had plenty to say about packaging:

...the network's prime-time programs should spend less time reporting the news of the day and more time spinning out what he hopes are emotionally gripping, character-driven narratives pegged to recent events.

It is not insignificant that he is being advised in this effort by Joel Cheatwood, a former news executive in Miami and Chicago who is well known for using loud sound effects to amplify crime stories...

In a segment last Wednesday on the program "Paula Zahn Now," for example, Rick Sanchez, a former local news anchor who worked for Mr. Cheatwood in Miami and who joined CNN last year, strapped on a device known as a shock belt - worn around the waist, it can deliver 50,000 volts of electricity to a person's body - and then gave a simple command: "Do it."
Moments later, Mr. Sanchez moaned audibly, crumpled to the floor, and, still panting after being helped to his feet, reported: "It hurts. It's painful. But no one's dead."

And Klein was thrilled!!!!!!
It seems that the media has become, "All hat and no cowboy," and the fact that the Times gave no nod to the implicit irony woven into this story, is doubly troubling.

It seems we may have to do the real investigating and reporting ourselves.

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