Mara Liasson, Washington gossip

NPR correspondent Mara Liasson spoke at Colorado College last night. What we thought would be an insider’s glimpse of the primaries turned out to be just that. Ms. Liasson spoke only of Kerry, Edwards and Dean. When asked about the other prospects, she countered that she expected we only wanted to hear about the candidates who would prove to matter.

How is a candidate like Kucinich, who is trying to bring issues such as health care, fair labor, environment, an end to war, and a return to human rights, to the fore, how is such a candidate to get covered by reporters who only want to report dispassionately about a candidate’s odds of winning? I mean, you tell us that “a candidate who wins in W state, but fails to win X and Y has never won Z,” that’s reporting? That’s more like Sports Talk.

Why not have reported about who won the debates? Edwards and Kerry, your favorite subjects, came off very stiff in the debates. Kucinich and friends ran circles around them, wouldn’t that have been worthy of reporting?

Isn’t the only thing standing between Kucinich and a viable candidacy, a media that’s refusing to consider him viable? Can you separate Kucinich’s chances from the tough chance he has with networks bent on keeping his issues invisible? What about your own sense of responsibility to report on every candidate, especially if you know their platform will resonate with the American public, if only given some visibility?

You dismiss the Bush AWOL charges as having been reported in 2000. For the record they were ignored in 2000, and you’re doing it again by suggesting they’re old news. They’re 30 years old news! Members of the National Guard today who have gone AWOL from Iraq are sitting in the brig, they’re not out snorting cocaine, even dealing cocaine, and then serving community service for having been caught. But Bush’s records have not only gone missing, they’ve been erased or sealed in the name of National Security. Wouldn’t that merit reporting? But that’s not your beat? Crime? Issues? The environment?

My question? Shouldn’t NPR consider covering the presidential election with correspondents who want to report more than just political gossip and primary statistics like it’s a horse race?

No, my real question: How much does FOX and MSNBC’s framing of the news, like the New York Time’s “all the news that’s fit to print,” determine what NPR can report? Is NPR too anxious about looking into the margins for fear it will marginalize itself? I guess that’s rhetorical. More constructively: How can the mainstream framing, that focus, be increased to include the interests of the American middle class, progressives, and peace-loving peoples around the world?

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