Open Letter to Rachel Maddow of MSNBC


Dear Ms. Maddow:

Congratulations on your new show! You’re one of the most intelligent journalists on the air today and it’s obvious that you have worked very hard to get where you are. I’m sure you’re very proud of this achievement and rightfully so.

It’s presumptuous of me, I know, but I can’t help but think that if Tim Russert were still around, he would advise you to maintain a calmer and more respectful tone. It got a little out of hand with your interchange with Pat Buchanan last night, and a host should not lose control of her show.

I remember watching the news when I was young with my parents and grandparents. Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Tim Russert. There used to be a gravitas in our newscasters and it resulted in reporting and interviews that was regarded as fair, as authoritative, and revealing. It seems now that trend is gone in favor of a more confrontational style. I don’t think it plays as well. I think the current style of interviewing is hostile or disrespectful to those being interviewed and it results in a shift of sympathies to the interview guest instead of the news host.

When I watch the news, I want to be informed, I want in-depth details, and I want journalists not to be afraid to call a spade a spade. But at the same time, I want journalists to be respectful—not deferential—but respectful. Let an interviewee sink himself or herself. Let an interviewee avoid a direct answer. Let it be obvious that an interviewee is not answering a question. That lets the viewer know the interviewee is hiding something, the journalist keeps his or her viewer sympathies, and the result is more effective than a news host going after the interviewee when he or she dodges the question. I think it’s more effective. Don’t let professional journalism ethics and your credibility and reputation be tarnished by either losing your cool or a sarcastic tone.

I am supporting John McCain in this presidential election although I’ve been a lifelong Democrat and I’ve worked on many political campaigns from local library millages and the state rep and judge level to congressional and senate races. I don’t like my choices in this election, as I haven’t liked my choices in most Presidential Elections. It seems like choosing the lesser of two evils. I know we disagree in this regard, although our politics are probably a lot closer than you would think.

There are a lot of independent bloggers out there offering independent political analysis and interpretation. But unfortunately, much of it is condemning the media for biased portrayals of the candidates. There is so much missing about every candidate. There is so much that is not being said. I understand that broadcast news is every bit as much a business and entertainment show these days as Entertainment Tonight. But Americans want more and all the missing pieces filled in—not celebratory dances or commentators wearing Stevie Wonder Shades.

You can find a whole host of popular political blogs on EntreCard-- Search by category. Search politics. Many of these blogs get over 500 hits a day, which is nothing compared to the Huffington Post, but I suppose it’s more representative of your Mom and Pop American just working to get by. My blog occasionally touches on Politics, and my two recent posts that you may be interested in are:

Game Changer: Sarah Palin
Me First or Country First: It’s the Deficit

If you’re interested, I would encourage you to check out these left wing, moderate, and conservative political blogs with original thought and analysis:

Black Woman Thinks
The Bobo Files
Caledonian Comment
Copious Dissent
A Disgruntled Republican
Election Issues
First Door on the Left
Injuries and Usurpations
Just a Random Thought
Killer Buffalo
The Marc Chamot Report
Read Write React
Sarah Palin News
Spectator Editorial
Vulcan's Hammer

Again, congratulations on your show! Best of luck to you. I’ll be watching.

Sincerely Yours,

Matthew S. Urdan

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Reflections Magazine editor said...

Fantastic post. Fantastic blog. Enjoyed the read.

I watch all cable news channels for the sake of being informed and of course so that I can compare apples to apples. Although Maddow is an intelligent woman, she lacks thoughtfulness and respect for others. I can only bare to watch and listen to her for a short while before her anger, cynicism and prejudice begin to disturb me. All extremes are bad I guess.

A letter...great idea for a post.

September 14, 2008 11:10 PM
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