They say all press is good press. It's not true. Sometimes there's bad press.
Rand Paul, for example, is experiencing "bad press." The Kentucky Senate candidate last week told Rachel Maddow, NPR, and local bloggers that he opposed the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Paul's belief that white-owned restaurants should still be able to bar black patrons from sullying their lunch counters launched a firestorm. So Rand Paul, the great (white) hope of the Tea Party revolution and the new face of the Republican Party, recognized that the bad press was mounting. He pleaded exhaustion and his GOP handlers scrapped his scheduled appearance on NBC's Meet the Press. It would only do more damage.
The show I created and executive produce along with my business partner Nick McKinney, THE IFC MEDIA PROJECT, premieres tonight at 8PM on the Independent Film Channel.
A four night event, each episode is a mini-documentary, airing through Thursday, examining the media and how it has covered the earthquake in Haiti, the economic collapse, the war in Afghanistan and the rise of the Tea Party:
And the reviews are rolling in. The Louisville Courier-Journal called it "Provocative, fast-paced and entertaining."
The Austin Chronicle wrote, "What they manage to share in a compact 22 minutes or so is far beyond what conventional media - particularly 24-hour cable news - has been able to muster. This series really makes you wonder: Why won't conventional media do better?"
And Daily Variety, the paper of record for Hollywood liberals, had this to say:
For all the talk about the liberal media, we rarely see something as unapologetically left-wing on television as the "IFC Media Project," four half-hour documentaries loosely connected by informal chats among the filmmakers that bookend each installment. The various films, however, only haphazardly illuminate their stated themes -- "Fear," "Greed," "Disaster," "War" -- and don't unearth much new ground in the fertile field of indicting media transgressions and shortcomings under each of the headings. Ultimately, it's an earnest but once-over-too-lightly barrage of progressive talking points.
To be fair, the show's not everyone's cup of tea. Fat Cat Bankers won't like it. Neo-con war mongers won't like it. Tea baggers and conservative media icons - like the always "apoplectic Andrew Breitbart" - won't like it.
And sometimes TV critics won't like it either.
But unlike Rand Paul, our show's not going to shy away from the bad press. We'd rather celebrate it because, after all, that's what our show really does: it celebrates the media. So, unlike most shows and movies and counter to PR "conventional wisdom" - here's a link to read Variety's bad review of our show, in addition to two of the really good reviews we've also gotten, as mentioned, the Austin Chronicle and the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Is the show "unapologetically left-wing?"
I don't know. Making the case that America shouldn't have wasted $51 Billion in Afghanistan building power plants that don't work and schools and clinics that are crumbling to the ground doesn't seem particularly socialistic... if anything, you could say it's fiscally conservative.
Arguing that monied interests - the Too Big To Fail Banks and the Congressman who swoon over them - have somehow wrecked this country doesn't seem like a crazy Joe Stalin rant... it's actually a fairly moderate way of putting it. We didn't exactly charge Wall Street with pitch forks.
Calling out FOX News and FreedomWorks for funding and blowing-out-of-proportion the Tea Party movement isn't a "progressive talking point" - it's objectively and journalistically accurate.
- Max Blumenthal (FEAR: The Tea Party, tonight) wrote the New York Times bestselling Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that shattered the party.
- Nir Rosen (WAR: Afghan "reconstruction," Tuesday) worked inside Fallujah and , later, embedded with - and was kidnapped by - the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Charlie LeDuff (GREED: Wall Street, Wednesday) won a Pulitzer Prize with the New York Times and then moved back home to Detroit to write for his local paper.
- Andrew Berends (DISASTER, Haiti, Thursday) made two documentaries about Iraqi civilians in the early years of that war and in 2008 was detained for a week in Nigeria for his work there.
These are real journalists who roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
But I get it. Brian Lowry's a TV critic and if he didn't like it, that's okay because either way, whether THE IFC MEDIA PROJECT is just too "lefty" for its own good or the show really is, as Belinda Acosta at the Austin Chronicle wrote, "what you wish the nightly news looked like" - at the end of the day, it's up to the viewers to decide.
And with television being what it is now, there is more and more to choose from, to decide between. It seems fitting to me that our third season premieres the day after Lost ended its magical run and the same night that Law & Order and 24 go off the air. Both Lost and 24 emerged in that dark first decade of the 21st Century as escapist reactions to post-9/11 societal angst, and in tonight's Law & Order finale, they rip a Times Square bombing from the headlines and play it up for dramatic effect.
I've always liked scripted television - I watched that final Lost episode with tears in my eyes. But I've dedicated my career to documentaries. Not to "reality" but to documentaries.
We didn't make THE IFC MEDIA PROJECT with politics in mind. We made it to tell stories. It is produced and edited by talented documentary filmmakers, multiple Oscar nominees and winners among them. So, no, I don't think tonight's episode with Max Blumenthal and the Tea Party is "unapologetically left-wing."
I think it's unapologetically real.
Meghan O'Hara is the executive producer of THE IFC MEDIA PROJECT which returns for its third season on the Independent Film Channel this May 24-27th in a four night docu-series event featuring stories on FEAR, WAR, GREED and DISASTER.