Labor Shut Out Of Sunday Morning Talk Show Circuit?

[ Posted Thursday, February 24th, 2011 – 18:17 UTC ]

I realize that there is a lot going on politically this week, on the state level and on the federal level (both domestically and internationally). I should probably be writing today about President Obama's new stance on the Defense Of Marriage Act, or Libya, or Bahrain, or the continuing attack on abortion rights here at home, or budgetary matters, or the Tea Party Republicans' overreach, or whether the federal government is going to shut down or not next week. All worthy subjects for commentary, for obvious reasons. But there's a more immediate concern today involving the mainstream media, where I feel a few calls and emails are warranted to the big networks. Because the most pressing issue on the domestic front is what is happening in Wisconsin (and Indiana, and Ohio, and many other states). There are two sides to this story. One side is the governor of the state, and his fellow-travelers on the right, who are ideologically committed to the destruction of public employee unions. The other side, quite naturally, is Labor's view of the situation. But the fabled "gatekeepers" of the "serious media" have apparently decided that only one side of this story needs be told.

Greg Sargent, who writes the "Plum Line" blog on the Washington Post website, uncovered the details:

I tend not to get into the business of questioning the guest choices made by the Sunday shows. But if there were ever a time the networks would want to book labor officials to appear, you'd think it would be now. The Wisconsin standoff is the most important domestic political story in the country right now, and as many commentators at those same networks have pointed out, both sides view this battle as ground zero in a national war that may determine the fate of organized labor in America.

But labor officials are beginning to fear that none of them will be invited on this weekend to give voice to the labor point of view. This, even as tough-talking anti-union governor Chris Christie is set to do a major appearance on CBS on Sunday.

One AFL-CIO official tells me that reps for the AFL-CIO and other unions reached out to all the big three network shows -- ABC's This Week, NBC's Meet the Press, and CBS' Face the Nation -- to ask if they would invite on any labor officials. Thus far the answer has been cool to indifferent, the official says.

No labor officials have yet been booked to appear. Carin Pratt, the executive producer of CBS's Face the Nation -- which is hosing Christie -- seemed to suggest as much in an email. "We are doing Gov. Christie for part of the show, with probably a segment on Libya," she said. "We're not only talking about labor."

Officials at NBC and ABC both told me their lineups were not yet complete, and wouldn't say any labor officials had been booked, though that could conceivably change.

Excuse me..."We're not only talking about labor"? You're not talking about Labor, except from the point of view of those who are opposed to it. That is pathetic. What he really is saying is "We're not going to talk to Labor." Which is beyond pathetic, it is shaping the storyline rather than clinging to any pretense of "journalism" or "journalistic ethics."

The mass media in this country used to examine both points of view of an issue, and act as a referee on the fact-checking front. If politician Smith and politician Jones were interviewed, and Jones said the Earth is flat, then the journalist would either call him out on it ("But that's factually wrong, sir...") or at the very least point it out in commentary ("Of course, everyone knows the Earth is round") afterwards.

The media were then the targets of a concerted attack by the Right, who labelled them the "Liberal Media" (this was decades before Sarah Palin named them -- or all of them except Fox, at any rate -- the "lamestream media"), because reality has such a "Liberal" bias. The media, over the course of two or three decades (during the same time period that they moved away from "journalism" in favor of "entertainment"), settled into an easier role -- instead of refereeing politicians, they would henceforth just allow both sides to have their say, and then move quickly along without debunking either side's nonsense. Call it the "On The Other Hand" school of journalism.

But now they've dropped even this pretense. Of course, this is routine with certain political groups. Any group outside the "mainstream of American political thought" (which is, of course, defined by the "mainstream" corporate media) is simply not invited to share their views with America. To give an obvious example, you don't see a whole lot of people on the news who advocate ending the "War on Drugs," do you?

Now, apparently, organized Labor is outside the realm of what is allowable on mainstream political shows. Even when the subject at hand is organized Labor.

This, as I said, is pathetic. But it is beyond pathetic, it is dangerous. No matter where you stand on the issue, shouldn't both sides be allowed to present their case? I want to hear from the governor of Wisconsin, personally -- whether I agree with him or not on anything he says. He is the pivotal figure in the political showdown, so I would like to hear him make his case. But I also want the head of the Wisconsin teachers' union (or pretty much any Labor leader, either from Wisconsin or on the national level) to be able to make his or her case as well.

I am in the business of interpretation. I consume other media and make my own interpretation of what is going on. I then write this out with the humble thought that others might want to read my take on what is reality, and what is realistic.

But I also realize my limited reach. In terms of the media pyramid (when it comes to politics), I'm pretty far down the stack. But up there near the top are the Sunday morning political shows. Because that is where the storylines are often written for the rest of the political commentary herd inside the Beltway to follow for the entire next week. OK, sure, the moderators of these shows are (some of them) laughably and woefully unprepared for the job they're supposed to do, but that (somehow) does not diminish the importance of the Sunday morning lineup. Even when being interviewed by a dim bulb, any politician worth his or her salt should be able to get out their side of the story anyway.

But they can only do so if they are invited to appear.

And -- in what could possibly be the most important week Labor has had since Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers -- the Unions are being silenced. This is outrageous. It is a travesty of "journalism."

Which is why, today, instead of writing about many other worthy subjects, I had to write this as a plea to all concerned citizens, let the networks know how you feel. I don't even care what your stance on the Wisconsin issue is -- you are still being denied an adult conversation about that issue. Which should outrage your sense of what is right -- even if you don't agree with the Unions.

If you feel this way, please take a minute and contact them and let them know how you feel (I didn't include Fox News Sunday in the list, because it'd probably be a waste of your time):

ABC -- This Week Contact info
CBS -- Face The Nation Contact info
NBC -- Meet The Press Contact info


-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


7 Comments on “Labor Shut Out Of Sunday Morning Talk Show Circuit?”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Yes, you could have written about any number of things in this columne today. But, it would be hard to argue that any of them are more important than the topic you chose.

    I suggest that all of us trek over to the Huffington Post over the course of the next week or so and make sure that a link to this column is posted at the top of the most prominent pieces on this issue there.

    People need to read this!

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    MSM outlets always seem to follow the pulse of the nation.. Apparently they feel that Joe Q Public is tired of hearing from the Unions..

    Other polls on the issue seems to support this..

    Not saying it's right, mind you... The MSM *SHOULD* air both sides of the issue..

    Interestingly enough, the best outlet for Labor officials seems to be Fox News.. :D

    Howz THAT for dripping in irony!?


  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    sadly, that's actually a good point about fox. presumably they think that letting the unions speak will yield more ammunition against them than in their favor. perhaps they have good reason to think so.

    even more than the typical democrats, most of the labor officials i've seen recently are absolutely hopeless in their rhetoric. randi weingarten seems to speak as if it's still the 1970's. when a union leader dropped by my school for a meeting, my jaw hit the floor at how stale her arguments were, even when compared to the regular discussions i have with my colleagues.

    by keeping the union leaders off the television, mainstream networks might in some cases be doing them a favor.

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    by keeping the union leaders off the television, mainstream networks might in some cases be doing them a favor.

    I have to admit, this made me laugh.. :D

    I applaud your ability to see the silver lining.. :D


  5. [5] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Chris: Trumka will be on MTP, I just learned.

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    does anyone have details on which sunday shows did or did not ultimately allow a labor response to the anti-union governors?

    CW? Anyone? Beuller?

  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    Really? Fox News is featuring Labor voices? Wow. I'm not poking fun here, I just don't watch Fox News that much. In fact, I only really ever watch "Fox News Sunday," and I have to say that I've gained some respect for Chris Wallace, even if he does remind me of a rabid, smirking chipmunk at times. Wallace seems, much more than (god forbid) David Gregory or the rest of them, to actually pose challenging questions to conservatives. He opens up on liberals, of course, but I expect that from Fox News. What impresses me is that he at least tries to hold conservatives' feet to the fire at times as well -- with BASIC questions any journalist worth his or her salt should ask (but never seems to, on other channels), so I'm not questioning whether Fox actually did put Labor on the air or not. Unlike many on the Left, I try to distinguish between Fox's "hard news" shows and fluff like O'Reilly and Beck. O'Reilly and Beck are a waste of electrons (in my opinion), but the news part I take a little more seriously. So do tell what you were talking about with the Labor thing, as I'm interested in hearing the details.

    Osborne -

    Thanks for the heads-up, I made sure to watch MTP because you warned me. I had been so disgusted, I was considering ignoring them all this week.

    nypoet22 -

    NBC, FNS, and CBS all had a Republican governor on this week, for a full solo interview segment. Not sure about ABC or any of the cable channels. NBC did have Trumka on, but only as one member of a handful of "panelists" later on, which isn't exactly "balanced" but I guess we'll take what we can get. Even with such a limited exposure, he managed to make several good points.


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