By: M.L. Stein
Conservative activist Arianna Huffington tells California
publishers she’s planning a cable TV talk show with that title sp.
CONSERVATIVE PURIST Arianna Huffington is planning a TV talk show called “Beat the Press,” but journalists shouldn’t expect to be hit too hard ? unless you count being accused of cynicism.
In fact, Huffington, the activist darling of the far right, is asking the media to share her vision of an America shedding or easing its burdens of welfare, homelessness, crime and drug addiction.
She made that plea in San Francisco earlier this month to the California Press Association (CPA), an organization composed primarily of publishers, who gave her warm applause.
Such reforms, Huffington contended, can be achieved at relatively little expense. She compared the effort to the designated driver system to cut down drunk-driving accidents and deaths.
“The media have a great opportunity to get involved by putting the stories of successes on the front page instead of the back pages, and not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas but with incredible regularity,” she declared.
The press, she urged, should investigate “abuses in the system that has left so many children and others in our communities victims of homelessness and the drug trade.”
Asserting that surveys show only 20% of Americans consider the media honest and trustworthy, Huffington blamed this attitude on the “incredible cynicism of the press.”
The main problem of the press is not liberal bias, the charge often hurled at it by conservatives, but “cynical bias,” according to Huffington. “Sometimes they [the media] don’t believe in anything,” she went on.
Her own volunteer activities are subjected to cynical attacks, the speaker complained.
“Why is she doing this, the press is asking?” Huffington said. “What does she really want?”
Such a reaction, Huffington asserted, reflects a “deep-seated cynicism and lack of belief in human nature. Constantly questioning people’s motives becomes extremely self-indulgent and makes it increasingly harder to change behavior and our culture,” an apparent reference to dependency on welfare.
Huffington implored the media to get in step with the conservative agenda as professionals and as citizens. After all, she asserted, newspapers and broadcasters rally to help during floods, hurricanes and other disasters, so the opportunity to aid in curing social ills should evoke the same response from them.
The Greek-born, Cambridge-educated Huffington, the daughter of a newspaper editor, first drew media attention as a tireless, feisty ? and some say ? press-baiting champion of her multimillionaire husband’s failed campaign for U.S. Senator from California in 1994. Michael Huffington, a former Congressman, spent $27 million of his own money in his loss to Diane Feinstein.
But in recent months, she has taken the spotlight in her own right as a leader in the Washington-based Progress and Freedom Foundation, peripatetic speaker, political gadfly book author, talk show guest and op-ed contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, USA Today, Orange County Register, Wall Street Journal, New York Post and other newspapers.
At the foundation, she heads up a subbody called the Center for Effective Compassion, which believes in ending dependence on government charity, suggests “one-on-one assistance” to those in need, and insists that recipients of private largess “work or do something constructive.”
Huffington, 45, is an admirer of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and made it clear during her speech that she would like to see the campaign of Sen. Bob Dole, the GOP front-runner for the presidential nomination, derailed.
As for her coming “Beat the Press” show on cable, Huffington dismissed any thoughts that the media will take a severe pounding. Actually, she promised, it will be good, clean, satiric fun.
“We’re planning to have fun on the show,” she elaborated. “It will all be in good spirits. We’re going to invite people from the media like [ABC News broadcaster] Sam Donaldson to explain, for example, why he attacks government subsidies while he receives almost $100,000 in subsidies for his farm in New Mexico.”
And, as a proof of its even-handedness, the program also plans to grill right-wing commentator Rush Limbaugh on whatever is absorbing him at
“We need to be able to laugh at ourselves. There’s nothing more wonderful than self-deprecating humor, and I hope the media will participate in this exercise.” the moment, Huffington said.
“We’re going to be an equal-opportunity satirist,” she chuckled.
However, television news may be the lesser of equals. One segment, Huffington revealed, will be entitled “How Do I Look?” a spoof of the concern of tv anchors over their grooming before air time, using CBS’ Dan Rather as a case in point.
“We need to be able to laugh at ourselves,” she commented. “There’s nothing more wonderful than self-deprecating humor, and I hope the media will participate in this exercise.”
The publishers’ reaction to the address was generally favorable.
“She’s improved her previous image,” commented Darell Phillips of the Manteca Bulletin. “She’s entertaining, but I think her message was directed more toward metropolitan newspapers.”
Sam Matthews, co-publisher of the Tracy Press, remarked: “I don’t think she’s aware of what small-town papers do. We get involved every day in civic-help projects like United Way, youth clubs and aiding the homeless.”
“I enjoyed her talk very much,” said Allen McCombs of the Chino Champion.
“She’s right in saying we need more compassion and that more people should get involved at the local level. But I think most newspapers are involved in the things she mentioned.”
?(“We need to be able to laugh at ourselves. There’s nothing more wonderful than self-deprecating humor, and I hope the media will participate in this exercise.”) [Caption]
?(? Arianna Huffington) [Photo]