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Can Melissa Harris-Perry Remove the Race and Gender Blinders from Cable News?

On Saturday, MSNBC debuts the eponymous weekend show of Melissa Harris-Perry, Tulane professor, MSNBC regular and Nation columnist.

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Would that scenario have made a difference in the day-to-day lives of Katrina survivors, or the long-term economic and environmental recovery of New Orleans? It’s impossible to say. But that’s just the kind of question that makes "Melissa Harris-Perry" such a needed addition to the broadcast body politic.

Smith is hopeful that the more diverse, more intellectually rigorous approach to news and public affairs will have an educational and transformative impact not only on the “Melissa Harris-Perry” audience, but on his industry.  

Peter Hart, activism director at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting and co-host and producer of FAIR’s syndicated radio show, "CounterSpin ," isn’t so sure. “These viewpoints tend to be excluded for a reason: Major advertisers and corporate owners do not want to embrace or promote them,” he says. “It would be naïve to confuse MSNBC's current approach with deeply held convictions about progressive politics. This is the same network that a few years ago tried to outfox Fox News, pinning its hopes on the likes of Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson and hate-radio host Michael Savage. They fired Phil Donahue for being too anti-war. Even Keith Olbermann talked about management concerns about his show being too left-wing at times. This says nothing of Harris-Perry or Chris Hayes' commitment to doing a different kind of television program. It's a question of whether a major corporation will let them do the shows they want to do.”

Hart’s concerns are grounded in the economic motives that propel the corporate media machine. Smith hopes to prove that producing quality journalism can also be good business: “If we're successful doing the show that we want to do, the powers-that-be in this corporate-media business will hopefully seek to replicate that success.”

Jennifer L. Pozner is a media critic, speaker, and the founder and executive director of Women In Media & News. She is the author of "Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV."

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