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Cenk Uygur

Cenk Uygur

Posted: February 11, 2006 10:36 PM

How Jack Cafferty Can Save America


Jack Cafferty can change America. The number one problem in the country right now isn't the Iraq War, the grotesque budget deficits, the NSA Warrantless Spying Scandal or even the rampant corruption running roughshod through Congress. It is the lack of balance on cable news. I'll tell you why.

CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel are watched by a tiny amount of the population -- the audience of the worst rated nightly news program on the networks (CBS) triples the audience of the best rated primetime program on cable news (The O'Reilly Factor). Despite this glaring fact, the cable news stations have an inordinate influence on the country.

Why? Because they are broadcast 24/7 in every other news organization in the country. Every newspaper, magazine, local television news and radio station in America is tuned into these three stations every single minute of the day.

So, what the cable news hosts talk about becomes what the country talks about. All of these newsrooms throughout America are inadvertently led to believe the cable news talk show hosts have a beat on what the average American thinks about.

They drive the conversation. They decide what the topics are, they decide how the issues get framed, what questions get asked, what the controversies are, and ultimately, they decide what is important.

The former head of NBC News, Neil Shapiro, just six months ago, said this on a Dateline story:

"I think we do stories that people care about. And there's no doubt that when a story gets, has, and reaches such talkability that everybody's talking about, that it's on Talk Radio, that it's on cable -- that if we as a network news division feel like we can weigh in, we can advance the story -- we should. "

That's another way of saying the major news networks follow the lead of the talk show hosts on the radio and cable news. And over 90% of those are conservatives. They set the bait and the other news operations fall in line because that's what "everyone is talking about."

No matter how important any issue is or how right the opposition might be, if the cable news guys don't cover it, it gets buried. A couple of papers might run a story about it, a magazine might do a piece, and then it's done. Because there is no "national conversation" about it.

The Republicans just put Tom DeLay on the Appropriations Committee that is charged with doling out money in the House and a subcommittee that overlooks the Justice Department investigation of Jack Abramoff. That should be giant news and completely scandalous. But as long as Fox News Channel doesn't want to cover it, and the other two play along, almost no one will talk about it. And more importantly, the American people for the most part won't even hear about it.

Every issue the Democrats have dies an unceremonious death on cable news. So, all these scandals don't matter worth a lick if you can't get Americans to realize they're happening.

How many Americans know that there was a gay prostitute in the White House posing as a reporter to ask the administration friendly questions? How many Americans realize the Pentagon hired a PR group to sell America and the world on the Iraq War years before they launched an invasion? And the list goes on and on.

So, how can Jack Cafferty change all this? He is a rare truth teller on cable news. He gets a couple of minutes a day on CNN to do "The Cafferty File." And every time it is a breath of fresh air - a man speaking truth to power. If CNN would just give Cafferty his own show in primetime, where he can frame the conversation, he can choose the topics and he can ask the right questions, we can turn this whole thing around.

If Cafferty gets good ratings, there will be ten more like him within the year. And if we could get balance on cable news in America, viewers can finally hear the whole story and make up their minds for themselves.

For the last ten years, Americans have been jury members in a trial where only one side had an advocate. It is no wonder they have made the decisions they have. When the British paper asked how so many Americans could be so dumb after the 2004 election, I think they had it wrong. Most Americans aren't dumb or malicious, they simply have no idea what's happening to them.

Are average Republicans really in favor of Senator Grassley sneaking an extra $22 billion out of their pockets and putting it straight into the pockets of the HMOs? Are average Republicans really in favor of a House Majority Leader who hands out tobacco checks on the House floor? Are average Republicans really in favor of an administration that knew there were no links between Iraq and al-Qaeda and said there were anyway?

I know it might be hard for some of you who are knee-deep in these issues to realize that most Americans are not at all aware of any of these things, but they really aren't. Very few people are willing to hand over their hard earned paychecks to corrupt lobbyists. They just don't know any better.

I think we are making the simplest request of all time - give us one strong voice who is an advocate for 50% of the country that votes Democratic on a regular basis. I don't know Jack Cafferty's politics. I don't know if he's a Democrat, and I suspect he would be uncomfortable being classified as a partisan on either side. But it is clear from his reporting that he at least understands the depths of America's problems and is willing to speak up about the real issues in this country.

Is just one show, from a person who is already employed by CNN, too much to ask for? Why is it okay to have dozens of conservative talk show hosts on cable news and not okay to have just one on the opposite side?

Are Republicans and conservatives afraid that Jack Cafferty could take on and beat Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, Neil Cavuto, John Gibson and all of the rest just by himself? Are they that cowardly? Are they so insecure that they cannot countenance just one dissenting voice? Are their arguments and positions so weak that they could not withstand a challenge from just one strong voice on the opposite side?

I have never met Jack Cafferty in my life and I suspect my call to arms on his behalf will take him by surprise. I have no vested interest in him. In fact, I am a talk show host who might have to compete with him one day. I don't even know where he stands politically. All I know is he speaks the truth, loudly and clearly. And the country desperately needs that at this time.

I ask all other bloggers, others involved in the media, public interest groups, and most importantly, all of you readers to join this fight. It is imperative that we get balance back on cable news, so that we can get balance back in the national conversation.

Please watch these clips of Cafferty on CNN and see if that doesn't sound like a strong voice for justice to you:

Cafferty on the new House Majority Leader, John Boehner.

Cafferty on Hurricane Katrina response.

Cafferty on scandals plaguing the administration.

Please write the head of programming at CNN and ask for balance on their network. They just hired three new conservative talkers in the last month, Glenn Beck, Bill Bennett and J.C. Watts. Ask him to promote just one person on the other side. I nominate Jack Cafferty.

Here's the e-mail to CNN's President, Jonathan Klein: jon.klein@turner.com

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