August 16, 2002

Donahue Steps Out

The creepy, oily connections between the Taliban, Saudi Arabia and the 9-11 attacks have surfaced in a mass media TV format on MSNBC's Phil Donahue show, as reported in the right-wing Washington Times (see "Donahue senses something sinister in Afghan war"). An interesting development indeed.

Donahue took a risk departing from the general media boycott of these questions by featuring an interview with Jean Charles Brisard, whose book "Forbidden Truth," which was released in France last November, was released in an English language version two weeks ago.

Trailing his competition in viewership, O'Reilly of Fox and Connie Chung of CNN, Donahue is apparently reaching for a wide demographic that is normally ignored by the major TV news networks. It will be interesting to see if his risk pays off. No doubt the White House is paying attention.

Donahue is to be commended for having the guts to step out of the media lockstep. No doubt the veteran talk show host has little to lose, MSNBC's commitment to him is surely unenthusiastic given his ranking behind relative newcomers on Fox and CNN. It looks like a go-for-broke move, but it's the kind of dynamic that yields fascinating results. In a media system dominated by almost perfect conformity to a world view that is increasingly out of step with a majority of Americans, such risks become attractive. And once the pattern is broken, interesting things can happen.

Stay tuned.

-- By David Cogswell

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