Twenty Questions for MSNBC

From all over America, dozens of you answered the call to question MSNBC news executive Rick Kaplan, from Eleda and Jeanne in California to Susan in Iowa, and from Bradley in Wisconsin to Patti and Barbara in Ohio to Gregory in Connecticut and Tom in New York. Your concerns ranged from immigration and corporate power ("Do you think it's possible that wealthy media corporations -- since money is speech -- have turned this democracy into an oligarchy?") to the war in Iraq and the 9/11 attacks ("Why don't you cover the incontrovertible evidence that the "terrorist attacks" on 9/11 were orchestrated/facilitated by the Bush Administration criminals?) that spawned it.

You wonder about the missing Phil Donahue ("Why fire Phil Donahue when your ratings vs. Fox, CNN were in the toilet?") to the missing Keith Olbermann ("Why has Keith Olbermann been allowed to abandon most of his responsibilities at Countdown, and do sports radio every day for an hour?" Some of you hate Chris Mathews ("Why is Chris Mathews so obsessed with Hilary Clinton?") and others ("The only way we get half the truth is Chris Mathews on Hardball. I never miss his program) love him.

Some of your questions and comments were better addressed to the president of NBC News ("My comment has to do with the Today Show--which I've watched every morning exclusively since I was a teenager...") and others to the president of the United States ("Mr. President, I've thought about this at great length, and with the utmost respect I would like to ask you when, specifically, you became a fucking moron?")

Finally, many of you thanked me ("I want to first say that I appreciate that this forum has been opened.") for the opportunity to question Kaplan and our other media mavens - but if thanks are in order, they are owed instead to all the readers/viewers/citizens who took the time to care, to write in and to question MSM authority. You've already demonstrated your ability to speak to power. Now we'll see if Kaplan -- whose original response to our request to participate was that he "will not be able to do this interview." We've posted your questions and emailed them to MSNBC. Now we'll see if he maintains his odd posture that (unlike his counterparts at CNN (insert link to Jonathan Klein interview) and FOX News (insert link to John Moody interview) he somehow lacks the ability to supply any answers.

Yo, Rick - your viewers are calling!

Come play Twenty Questions with us...

1. What many Americans want answers about from mainstream media are these questions: Why has mainstream media been lying to the American people for years by omission? Why has mainstream media helped foster so many unanswered questions about 9/11? Why has mainstream media participated in and helped to perpetrate lies about the Iraq war?

2. It would seem to me that MSNBC is forced to function from a position of weakness because its parent company is more interested in protecting its own bottom line than it is in making MSNBC compete on a level playing field with CNN and FNC. How great is the challenge for MSNBC to succeed?

3. To this viewer, MSNBC news programming seems increasingly skewed rightward on the political spectrum. I would point to the Matthews' program, his approving commentary about the administration and the GOP generally, and his failure to have regular liberal voices on his show. (Joe Klein may be a Democrat, but he does not count as a liberal voice.) And the line-up of Scarborough, Carlson and Cosby speaks for itself, although Cosby seems more obsessed with missing white women than with politics. The only evening host who seems to be trying to play it straight is Olbermann, who is aggressive with everyone, and has a wide spectrum of views on his show. Please ask Mr. Kaplan whether he agrees with this assessment. If so, does he thinks the future of successful news programming depends on emulating the Fox News model? Is he concerned that cable news will drive liberals, moderates and even conservatives who don't want their "news" with a big helping of rightwing viewpoint to get their news from internet sources?

4. I understand the press does not want to "displease" the White House because they will be denied access. However, if access produces misleading information and propaganda (WMD, etc.), what is the access worth?

5. MSNBC is to be congratulated for allowing more diversity of opinion to be presented than has become the standard in the media today. Still, you must be aware of the criticism that has been directed at the U.S. media for its lack of diversity, which typically ranges all the way from radically conservative to extreme right wing crazy. My question is whether or not there is any concern in the executive suites of the corporate media whether this deterioration in the diversity of the media is contributing to a downfall of the political system of this country? Is there any concern that the limitations imposed by the media on the range of political discussion will lead to the downfall of democracy?

6. What would it take to cover items like the Downing Street Memo and war profiteering as well as you cover Natalie Holloway?

7.Why does Chris Mathews keep complaining that it is not clear what the Democratic Party stands for when the reason it is not clear is because of the lack of proper coverage by you all?

8. What could be more ridiculous than the media asking why it takes George Clooney to get attention for Darfur? Gee, do ya think it has anything to do with what the media chooses to report? (And you still haven't reported on Darfur in any meaningful way. You only reported on the fact that Clooney went there.)

9. If you polled CEO's and they were truthful, wouldn't every single one of them say what Les Moonves (of Viacom) said in 2004, "What's in Viacom's interest is in my interest, and I want George W. Bush to get elected."? Do you think it's possible that wealthy media corporations -- since money is speech -- have turned this democracy into an oligarchy? Has money overtaken the people's electoral process?

10. Why is the media not covering the 10,000 Iraqi women and children who have become refugees because of being driven from their homes by conflicting factions? Surely this is a result of "civil war."

11. Why did MSNBC ignore Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents bash? This was definitely newsworthy and MSNBC didn't even discuss it from what I could see. That is really odd, isn't it? And they say the media has a liberal bias... Seems to be the other way.

12. Are leaders of large corporations (G.E., Westinghouse, Chase, Citibank, etc.) voicing concern that Bush is taking the country over the cliff with his talk of nuking Iran, and the disaster in Iraq? Are these leaders concerned that oil-producing nations are beginning to use the Euro instead of the Dollar as the currency for oil? Do the trillions of dollars in debt held by China and Japan concern business leaders of American companies -- and if so, why are they not speaking out?

13. Based on a premise that public access to all sides of an issue is critical to nurturing and maintaining the soul of a nation and creating an informed citizenry, would you support the re-activation of the Fairness Doctrine, in hopes that it might be beneficial in restoring the robust functions that media outlets once performed?

14. Why the deafening silence on the state of the electoral process in this country?

15. I feel that television news is trapped by its need to produce interesting images. The Natalee Holloway story, for example, is driven as much by her looks and her status as by the crime itself. Her story is unique, because she seems innocent, attractive, and disappeared at a vacation spot normally seen as "safe." But MSNBC has a 24-hour news cycle to fill, and in that time you could cover at least 7 other disappeared individuals a week. Just halve the time that you dedicate daily to Holloway, and devote the other half to someone else who has disappeared. Why not democratize it a little: talk about eight different missing people a week, one new one a day, with an equal amount of airtime to the missing person who is everything Natalee Holloway isn't? Except, of course, needed by their families.

16. I was wondering why Charlie Sheen, star of television's "Two and a Half Men," was not interviewed on MSNBC during primetime? The two questions he's asked about 911 seem relevant to today's political situation and appear to be in the public interest. I believe that Charlie Sheen's story could be an important piece for MSNBC, to help restore its integrity as a valid source for unbiased news and a commitment to impartial nonpartisan truth.

17. Why is the Friday "Hardball hot shots" segment always slanted to the far right ... Scarborough, Cosby and Carlson? Instead of trying to out-fox Fox, why don't you tap into the majority of cable viewers and move left? Americans are hungry for more shows like Keith Olbermann.

18. The questions I'd like to ask and have answered are: Why aren't there more reports about mishandling of taxpayers' money that is lost, or missing from Iraq? Why isn't there more on the signing statements, written by President Bush, and his reasoning that the laws aren't made for him?

19. If your responsibility is to inform the public, why don't we hear more about important policy-making groups such as the Project for a New American Century? With the ramifications of their decisions affecting all of us so profoundly, why are they allowed to function in secrecy?

20. Why doesn't the media correct the assumption that it is liberal? Why doesn't the media have any serious liberal voices?

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