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Jennifer Nix Headshot

Open Letter to MSNBC President Phil Griffin

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I like what I'm reading about what you intend to do with the 10 p.m. slot on MSNBC. Your network is sitting on top of a tremendous opportunity. This is a seminal moment, one that can lead us -- professional and citizen media -- into new journalism and media paradigms.

I applaud the idea to build on the momentum of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" and "The Rachel Maddow Show," and your desire to allow for an "organic" process in finding the right host. I know I don't need to wax financial about your ratings successes of late, but I hope you'll take a moment to consider why I think your move with the 10 p.m. program is so important, and why David Sirota is the best candidate for host.

We are in the midst of creating a new media system in this country. Newspapers are downsizing and folding, blogs and online video are exploding, and many Americans are organizing themselves into digital social networks, to not only share personal information and photos, but to discuss the news of the day and organize on behalf of issues and organizations. From the political left-of-center, we've also seen valuable experiments in creating new forms of advocacy and activist journalism and opinion, coming from think-tanks like Center for American Progress and media reform advocates such as Media Matters.

The people are struggling to be included in the media -- not simply force-fed. We have the beginnings of new organizing principles for media, even if the new financial models to support journalism are not yet solidified. But this truth can no longer be denied: One-way media is being reborn as something far more participatory, something better representing a national conversation. So I hope you will not simply allow for an organic process in selecting a new host only to plug him or her into an old format. What is truly necessary is finding a host/format combination that is an organic reflection of an audience that increasingly wants to contribute in meaningful ways, and to be compensated fairly.

The MSNBC line-up has been embracing the new attitudes, and flirting with new technologies like texting and Twitter. Olbermann and Maddow, in particular, have created unique and relevant news and opinion shows that have begun to merge new and traditional media practices--and proven there is a healthy market for progressive thought in America. With the 10 p.m. slot, your network can move even further into the new media future, by choosing progressive populist David Sirota and creating a show dedicated to moving people beyond simply discussing the news, toward helping them to organize and network, to get involved and work together on the major challenges this nation is facing.

Mr. Sirota is uniquely suited to be the ring-leader of such a program. His books Hostile Takeover and The Uprising have chronicled outsized corporate and governmental greed and corruption, as well as citizen efforts to stamp them out. His organizing for issues benefiting the common good and for electoral candidates have helped to build an impressive movement. His newspaper column and media work for outlets running the gamut from The Nation to Fox News has helped to bring about a resurgence of progressive populism in America.

Sirota sits at the very nexus of media and activism in our nation today, and would bring a new brand of authenticity, genuinely steeped in the new technologies and practices, and dedicated to news and action beyond just the Beltway and New York City. Why not try to create some programming that invites and inspires people to move away from apathy and isolation, and toward participation in their own democracy?

The opportunity to lead the way, to be the visionary home for developing a new format and economy for new media is what your 10 p.m. slot offers you at this critical moment. Use that slot to try something truly different, to nurture new talent and ideas, and to try new ways of marrying emerging technologies with the timeless values of speaking truth to power and creating meaningful communities.

David Sirota has been urging us all to "rock the boat" for years, and in my own travels through media and activism--from NPR to book publishing to blogging-- he has been one of the most principled and hardest workers I've had the pleasure to meet. Sirota's worldview defies how he is sometimes categorized--he doesn't fit the increasingly outdated terms of "liberal" or "conservative." Sirota is quite simply about progress and people power.

The prospect of David Sirota having a regular platform on MSNBC, to develop and use the power of television in new ways, makes me hopeful about new directions for media. Certainly, this is neither the time nor the place to outline the exact show, but with Sirota at its heart, I envision a show that could be developed with professional, citizen and advocacy media input, using social networking, video and blogging capabilities, and offering a seamless interplay between the televised and online components of the enterprise. And there must be a way to compensate citizen journalists who contribute to the success of the show.

We have so much work to do in this country. Isn't it time to have some television fare committed to helping the public organize, and to have a little fun while we're at it? With all the great work being done on your current shows, MSNBC is the natural choice to lead the way on this new media experiment. Perhaps this is a moment, like in 1968, when Don Hewitt started the news-magazine "60 Minutes," which broke open the television news format and allowed stories to be told in relevant new (and financially rewarding) ways.

Let's be bold, Mr. Griffin. We've got your back.

Send an email to MSNBC at letters@msnbc.com with a simple message: Tell them you'd like to see Sirota get the 10pm job. Join the Facebook group about this campaign at
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=53711796165