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Saturday, November 17, 2007

CNN (hearts) Hillary Clinton
Posted by Jill | 8:22 AM
Boy, CNN really, really, really wants Hillary to be the Democratic nominee -- along with every other major corporation. You kind of have to wonder why that is and why those who think she's going to be some kind of force for change don't find anything odd about that.

But the one person for whom you have to feel badly is Maria Luisa Parra-Sandoval, the UNLV student who asked Hillary if she prefers diamonds or pearls. Yesterday I was listening to Randi Rhodes and the callers were just brutal to this kid for asking such a trivial question.

Turns out that CNN told her what to say:

"Every single question asked during the debate by the audience had to be approved by CNN...I was asked to submit questions including "lighthearted/fun" questions. I submitted more than five questions on issues important to me. I did a policy memo on Yucca Mountain a year ago and was the finalist for the Truman Scholarship. For sure, I thought I would get to ask the Yucca question that was APPROVED by CNN days in advance. CNN ran out of time and used me to "close" the debate with the pearls/diamonds question."

Now, if I'd been in her shoes, I'd have either said "Fuck you, I won't do it" or said "OK" and then asked the question about Yucca Mountain anyway. After all, what are they going to do to me? Escort me out, at the end of the debate?

But I'm not a college student, and I'm not going to fault a 20-year-old for not being that quick on her feet in a nationally-televised situation. I am going to fault Randi's staff a bit for not getting the information about how CNN dictated the question to her, because it was already on the blogs by yesterday afternoon. And it's clear that many people were angry about the question, because Parra-Sandoval's MySpace page where the above quote that was reprinted at Huffington Post originally appeared is now set to private. (More here and here.)

There are two extraordinary articles in today's New York Times today; articles which we never would have seen were it not for the blogs, and which demonstrate clearly where the Times goes looking to see what stories are newsworthy. One of them is on Rudy Giuliani's change of tune about universal health care since he became a Republican presidential front-runner, and the other further serves to damns CNN for its obvious Hillary partisanship by having James Carville as part of the post-debate panel:

Among the experts trotted out by CNN to comment was James Carville, a Democratic strategist and CNN commentator who is also a close friend of Mrs. Clinton and a contributor to her campaign.

Mr. Carville’s presence aroused the fury of rivals and bloggers. They called it a conflict of interest and criticized CNN.

“Would it kill CNN to disclose that James Carville is a partisan Clinton supporter when talking about the presidential race?” Markos Moulitsas wrote on his liberal blog, Daily Kos. Mr. Moulitsas drew hundreds of comments.

Tom Reynolds, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, said: “What you saw last night lacked full disclosure. The average viewer out in middle America may not know the inside-the-Beltway connection.”

A CNN executive conceded that the cable channel should have more fully disclosed Mr. Carville’s past and that it was discussing how to handle such situations.

The criticisms were among a series against CNN for how it managed the debate, a two-hour event in Las Vegas that ran nearly 15 minutes late. Viewers criticized segments like the opening, when candidates bounded onto the stage in a style reminiscent of a sports event.

Voters and commentators wrote online about how the audience cheered and booed, the way the CNN hosts reframed audience questions and whether it was correct to demand yes-or-no answers to complex questions.

Maria Luisa Parra-Sandoval, a student who asked Mrs. Clinton whether she preferred diamonds or pearls (Mrs. Clinton answered “both”), said she had prepared a list of more serious questions but had been directed by CNN to ask her trivial question.

CNN said the debate was the most watched in this campaign, drawing more than four million viewers.

Viewers directed most of their criticism at the commentary. The channel has been ridiculed by conservative groups as the Clinton News Network, partly because its commentators include Mr. Carville and Paul Begala, an adviser to President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Carville said in a phone interview that he did not have a role in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and that he had “never been paid a nickel by her.”

He also said he considered her a close personal friend, had contributed to her presidential effort, had friends working for her campaign, planned to vote for her in the Virginia primary and spoke to Mr. Clinton regularly.

Carville too has a tin ear when it comes to such political connections, and obviously inadvertently told us how business is done in Washington by thinking that having "never been paid a nickel" somehow makes him less partisan towards her than being a close personal friend -- implying that money is the only currency of political support.

It is only to the good that CNN's obvious and han-fisted efforts to give Hillary Clinton a rebound after her subpar performance in the last debate is seeing the light of day. One can only hope that Iowa and New Hampshire voters ask themselves why the giant corporate media companies are trying so hard to get her the nomination. But equally important is the presence, albeit on page A34, of two stories that in the absence of blogs, would never, ever have seen the light of day in the mainstream media. Now granted, the blogs that gave "diamonds or pearls" story traction are alpha dogs like ThinkProgress, HuffPo, and the Talking Points Memo family of sites, but I don't care where the mainstream media finds these stories, as long as they pick them up and get them out there where the vast majority of Americans who don't yet read blogs get their news. Let it be an embarrassment to those outlets that refuse to cover them.

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