June 6, 2005
Mr. Rick Kaplan
1 MSNBC Plaza
Secaucus, NJ 07094-2419
Dear Mr. Kaplan:
We noted with interest MSNBC's impending launch of The Situation With Tucker Carlson. We thought we would take the opportunity to offer you our input.
Given the current lineup on MSNBC and its fellow cable news channels, the addition of one more conservative as a prime-time host -- particularly one with a penchant for hyperbole, distortion and outright misinformation -- will further skew MSNBC's prime-time lineup and undermine the network's credibility. MSNBC already features one conservative host in prime time (Joe Scarborough), not to mention Chris Matthews, whose undisguised contempt for liberals and Democrats seems to grow by the day (as Media Matters for America recently documented, despite absurd claims from the right that he is a liberal, Matthews has admitted voting for President Bush “at least once,” proudly said he “defended [Bush] against the liberal elite,” and echoed conservative talking points on any number of issues).
Even though the addition of Carlson means that you are adding yet another conservative as sole host of a prime-time show, we would like to encourage you to allow some progressive voices to be heard as well. Preliminary reports indicate that Carlson's program will feature a regular group of panelists to discuss issues in the news. We are sure that you have a genuine desire that these panels be balanced. Allow us to suggest what true balance would look like.
First, a discussion between two conservatives and one progressive is not “balanced.” On the typical cable news show, the conservative host will be joined by a conservative guest and a liberal guest, making for a 2-to-1 imbalance. Sometimes, these shows even tilt 3-to-1 against the sacrificial progressive. Media Matters noted such a panel on MSNBC during last fall's presidential debate and a series of them during the presidential inauguration in January.
Second, a discussion between two conservatives and one reporter for a mainstream news organization is not “balanced.” All too often, reporters are brought on as foils for opinionated conservatives, leaving no one to advocate a progressive position and playing into the distorted conservative complaint that journalists are liberal advocates. This is not to say that reporters shouldn't be panelists, but when they are, don't fool yourself into thinking they balance conservatives. Media Matters also noted this phenomenon on MSNBC during last fall's presidential debates.
There are many articulate, interesting, insightful progressives who would be assets to panel discussions -- not just on Carlson's show but on any similar program on your channel. If you are having any trouble filling the slots, don't hesitate to get in touch with us for some suggestions.
President and CEO
Media Matters for America