Do you think there’s an audience for a channel that would be as far to the left as Fox News is to the right?
I think it would take off. Look at Web sites like Crooks and Liars. Look what’s getting passed around on YouTube. If there was something that was kicking out that kind of information, independent commentary taking on the administration’s distortions and lies in real time, then you wouldn’t have to wait for it the next day and see what happened. You’d know what channel on the dial to go to. I think it would absolutely boom, and boom overnight.
In terms of viewers — that’s the question you asked me. Sponsors are always a problem. If you’re counterprogramming against Fox, if you’re as progressive as they’re conservative, you would have sponsor-flight issues. You would have conservatives pressuring corporate sponsors: “Do you know what you’re sponsoring? You sponsored an investigation of sweatshops that named your company.” That’s one of the issues that has always been a subtle background issue in American TV news. It would become a foreground issue if someone was really doing independent reporting and commentary about the economic realities of our country and our world.
What’s the best show on cable news right now?
You know how many times in the book where I said something nice about cable news, I said, “That’s another high jump over a low hurdle”? I did that so often that the publisher came to me once and said, 'Jeff, we want to make the book “High Jumps over Low Hurdles: My Misadventures in Cable News.” I’m glad we didn’t go for it.'"
I’ve got to tell you, it’s high jumps over low hurdles. There’s not much there. I watch a lot of it. Obviously the thing that’s not a high jump over a low hurdle — it’s soaring into the stratosphere in terms of quality — is Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. They’re so brilliant, sometimes I’m on the verge of tears. They’re doing media criticism of the highest order — especially Stewart, and of course Colbert in his speech that so offended the Washington press corps. Any serious media critic has to be in love with those shows, and certainly millions of other people are. The two standouts on cable, and perhaps the two best in news/media criticism shows, are on Comedy Central. It’s hard to find anything to speak highly about.
Well, let me give you something that will be a very high hurdle. What’s the worst show on cable news?
That’s tough because there are so many candidates. I mean, Glenn Beck is insane. It’s almost psychopathic. He wasn’t on national TV during Iraq, so it’s as if he wants to forget everything that happened, and he’s doing it for Iran. It’s like, “Goddamn it, I missed the Iraq go-round, where I could have spouted my ignorant mouthings about a region of the world I have no clue about, and attack the officials of both parties for not getting in there fast enough. And damn it, I’m going to do it for Iran.” Night after night. He’s got to be high up there. Obviously what’s-her-name, Grace.