Current TV is putting itself out there as the next great leader in political broadcast television. My new article at AlterNet looks at how it is doing, and most particularly compares Current with MSNBC, its most obvious competitor -- and model.
While I offer a big-picture take on the network narratives, my favorite part of the piece is something of an ode to specificity.
It really is a surprising move by Current to make the charismatic two-term governor of a struggling Midwest state the sole host of new show that stands alongside the established enterprises of “Countdown” and “The Young Turks.” While “The War Room” specializes in Election 2012, (Jennifer) Granholm is elevating key stories that have a national resonance, but are approached with a Michigan perspective. Her discussion of the racist Superbowl ad by Pete Hoekstra, a U.S. Senate candidate from Michigan, included her admission of using similar “China will take our jobs” rhetoric in one of her own gubernatorial campaigns, for example. It was an effective strategy in a state that saw its unemployment rate hit 15% during the worst of the recession.
Similarly, “The War Room” also featured an interview with UAW president Bob King. He and Granholm discussed collective bargaining, right-to-work laws, and unemployment in a distinctly Michigan context. (Most networks rarely bring leaders of the labor movement on to speak.) King contended that Mitt Romney – a Michigan native, whose father once served as the state’s governor – cannot win the crucial state in this year’s primary because of his hostility to labor and union rights. Notoriously, Romney opposed the auto industry bailouts in a 2008 New York Times op-ed headlined as “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” As Romney’s campaign for president heated up last year, which included fundraising in Detroit, Granholm retorted with her own op-ed in Politico: “Let Mitt Romney Go Bankrupt.”
Granholm’s experience in a key swing state gives her an insight that simply is not replicable by any other pundit. While MSNBC often turns its attention to significant local stories around the nation, such as Indiana passing right-to-work legislation and the movement to recall Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, it most often stands by a slate of national issues that are fixed in no particular location. There is nothing wrong with this: from the political battle for birth control to the national budget debate, these are important stories. But with “The War Room,” Current is deepening the focus on a region often eclipsed by national media, belying its significance. ... Granholm brings her show inimitable expertise and an uncommon take on which stories matter.