What's notable to me about the ABC debate is conservative radio host Sean Hannity was able to get his question asked, simply by suggesting it on-air to George Stephanopoulos. That is in large part because conservatives have engaged and pressured traditional media outlets for years.
A subtext to their criticism has been that "liberal media elites" shouldn't dismiss the views and suggestions from "real Americans" in "the heartland." In other words, "conservative" = "heartland." So when Hannity suggests a question, that must be what's on the mind of voters in the heartland! Therefore his question, no matter how factually flawed or irrelevant to the job of being President, gets prioritized.
But also notable is how the spontaneous outrage after the debate, decidedly not from conservatives, countered conservative pressure and influenced the media in a positive way -- forcing media outlets, including ABC, to explore on-air how debates should be conducted (instead of what Hannity wanted, a media frenzy about the smear he was trying to inject in the political discourse).
We can take this to next level, and start positively and pro-actively influencing the media, so that media elites know there are people in "the heartland" who want quality, aggressive, investigative journalism, not right-wing smear jobs.
Over at the Campaign for America's Future blog, we have a regular feature, the "Weekend Watchdog." On Friday evenings, we recommend questions for the Sunday shows, and give contact information for the shows, so readers can forward them or suggest their own.
Afterwards, both on our CAF blog and on Air America's "Seder on Sundays," we hold the shows accountable and see if our questions actually were asked. (Though this week, "Seder on Sundays" is airing a taped broadcast for Passover.)
This can only work over the long-term if:
1) We respectfully and politely offer good questions, not simply copy the right-wing strategy of pushing smears and misinformation. We have to build a level of trust with our friends in the media so we will be heard.
2) We engage traditional media outlets in large numbers, so they know there are lots of people in the heartland who simply want good journalism that help us make informed decision in our democracy.
This week's Weekend Watchdog, along with the Sunday show contact info, is below. And HuffPost's Cliff Schecter has plenty of suggested questions as well. There's no monopoly on suggesting questions. So get to it, and be a Weekend Watchdog, this week and beyond!
Two questions for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (ABC's This Week)
1. In January you said, "I don't believe we're headed into a recession. I believe the fundamentals of this economy are strong." But this past Monday you said "I certainly think so" that we are in recession.
On Thursday, when asked by Bloomberg's Peter Cook if Americans were better off now than seven years ago, you said, "I think if you look at the overall record and millions of jobs have been created, et cetera, et cetera, you could make an argument that there's been great progress economically over that period of time." Then during a Friday interview with Bloomberg's Al Hunt, you said, "I think Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago when you look at what has happened to middle-income Americans."
Why haven't you given consistent straight answers about what seven years of conservative economic policies have done to the American economy?
2. After originally opposing the Bush tax cuts, you now support a continuation of his strategy: extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans beyond 2010, and also proposing new tax cuts for corporations.
As the conservative approach failed to spark the investment needed to create good jobs, strengthen infrastructure increase wages and lower costs for health care, energy and education, why would your proposals produce different results than what we've experienced in the last seven years?
For Karl Rove (Fox News Sunday)
Your lawyer previously told MSNBC that you would testify about the case if subpoenaed by Congress, and the House is interested in your testimony. But on Friday, your lawyer backtracked from that pledge.
If you had no role in orchestrating the political prosecution of an innocent man, why won't you testify to Congress?
For Clinton campaign strategist Geoff Garin (NBC's Meet The Press)
The Huffington Post reported that Sen. Clinton attacked MoveOn.org at a private fundraiser in February, after praising the 3-million member group last year. In particular, she accused them of opposing military action in Afghanistan after 9/11, which is a false statement.
Will the campaign acknowledge she made a false statement and apologize to MoveOn.org?
Email Fox News Sunday at FNS@foxnews.com
Contact ABC's This Week by clicking here
Contact NBC's Meet The Press by clicking here
Remember: always be brief, polite and respectful when contacting the media, so our voices will be taken seriously.