Cynthia Moothart

Power of the Possible

With much of the media of late sounding less like independent news outlets than shills for the GOP, one smart little radio program based in northern California has emerged to define the mainstream.

“A World of Possibilities,” an hour-long public affairs radio program that went national in July, is broadcast in 160 U.S. markets and eight countries. Its most recent program, “Letters from Baghdad,” features searching, often pained communications from soldiers to their families back home. Nearly 200 additional stations are airing this program as a special.

“Why didn’t the Washington press corps report what was going on in Iraq early on, when it knew? Why didn’t it complain about non-access and so on? What we hope we’re doing is filling that gap the mainstream media created for itself by closing its mouth, closing its eyes and closing its ears,” says “World” producer Chuck Rogers.

“Part of the news is that this program is even on the air, that the two-part series ‘Letters from Baghdad’ is finding a place. And that speaks volumes about what is going on in this country.”

What is going on, say Rogers and program host Mark Sommer, is a backlash against the lack of nuance in politics and its reporting. To that end, “World” foregoes hegemonic sources and the dogma of entrenched beliefs—and the result is bald, moving coverage that speaks to the broadest possible audience.

“On the surface, the [media] climate is more repressive and more consolidated and monolithic than we’ve seen in recent American history, but beneath the surface we’ve found there are greater possibilities for openness than most people realize,” Sommer says. “While the polls don’t show it, a remarkable degree of deep questioning is going on in the public.”

He notes an evolution in political connections that coverage emphasizing partisan politcs may miss—the audience into which “A World of Possibilities” taps.

“A fascinating convergence is occurring between thoughtful progressives and thoughtful conservatives that is not being reported. That opens up all kinds of ironies and paradoxes where you find—on the Iraq war, for example, or in other realms like energy policy or even civil liberties—very unlikely allies coming together and finding in one another a commonality that emotionally almost feels like finding long-lost brothers and sisters.”

Despite its obvious progressive sensibility, some of the earliest stations to sign on to “A World of Possibilities” were found in Tennessee, Wyoming, Montana and Indiana, all Republican strongholds. Indeed, some of the most powerful voices in “Letters From Baghdad” arrive from such unlikely places as Indianapolis and Midland, Texas.

“All these years in calling ourselves the Mainstream Media Project we had done it somewhat tongue-in-cheek because we weren’t coming from the middle of the mainstream; that’s what we were aiming at,” Sommer says. “But a majority of Americans, maybe a new silent majority, do not have grand designs on the world but want to live decent lives and really would like everyone to have decent lives. They are alarmed by the direction the country is going in and feel it is essentially destroying us and destroying our future—destroying our children’s future in so many different ways. You hear it now at least as much from bedrock conservatives as you hear it from progressives.”

And with the number of stations carrying “A World of Possibilities” growing nationwide, audiences now can hear it every week, as well.

Cynthia Moothart is managing editor for content at In These Times.

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