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One Day Left to Bag the Canned Oprah Intv, Replace it With a Real Newsmaker

Piers Morgan's launch statement: Oprah interview

From the moment it was first announced that Oprah would be the first guest for the launch of Piers Morgan Tonight, I feared it would be a problem.  What if a really big news story captured the imagination of the entire nation?

What if that news story sparked a unflinching dialog that crossed political parties, all generations, one story that involved  the entire spectrum of modern debate: gun control, mental health resources, parental responsibility, anti-Semitism, marijuana, free speech, the presidency and more.

My “what if” happened on January 8th in Tuscon, Arizona and CNN’s coverage today, eight days later,  remains riveting and relevant.

WILL ANYONE ELSE CHALLENGE  “OPRAH”  ON THE FIRST SHOW?

This morning, Fareed Zakaria analyzed America’s gun culture and toxic political rhetoric,  but first looked forward to next week’s White House guest, the president of China. (I will try to resist any references to “Hu’s on first.)

Up next, Howie Kurtz reviewed the role of mainstream media which, he noted for the second week, got in wrong from the beginning when NPR, ABC News and others reported that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been shot and killed.  Kurtz went on to discuss the rhetoric and the media’s role and responsibility in covering the president, Sarah Palin and more.

Dr. Fred Frese and his "beautiful mind": a great guest for Piers Morgan?

The most riveting  of all CNN’s coverage was Candy Crowley’s hour with a father of an adult schizophrenic and a truly amazing man named Fred Frese III, who is director of psychology at  Western Reserve Psychiatric Hospital.  To call Dr. Frese’s 30-year career distinguished is an understatement.  Once an officer in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, Frese had numerous involuntary hospitalizations in state, private and military psych wards. Despite a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, he pursued a medical degree and earned a doctorate in psychology from Ohio University.

I had more of my questions about the  Arizona shooting answered by this hour on CNN than any other.  Dr. Frese,  with all his twitchy charm, explained schizophrenia — its real threats, challenges and  treatments — like no other.  He began by invoking the pride his (schizophrenia) community had in Dr. John Nash,  the nobel laureate portrayed by Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind.”  The mental health community should have equal pride in Dr. Frese who, in the most disarming way, explains that as with alcoholics where there are happy drunks and mean ones, he’s a happy schizophrenic.  Dr. Frese, for one, would make a great first guest for Piers Morgan. After that, someone should open up on-air phone lines for Dr. Frese, for about three hours.

In between all these better-than-usual CNN hours: Piers Morgan’s promo with Oprah who says, “Whew, that was the toughest interview I’ve had in 20 years.”

If that’s really true, then it will hold.  Of all people, Oprah will understand.  It’s more important for Morgan to show he’s more nimble than safe, more relevant than star struck. Read the rest of this entry »

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AFTER THE ARIZONA SHOOTING, GRAPPLING WITH POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM AND THE MEDIA BLAMESTORM

Jared Lee Loughner, Independent, hasn't voted since 2008

I’ve now listened to three full days analysis of the tragedy in Arizona which left six people dead, 14 more injured including Rep. Gabriella Giffords who’s still fighting for her  life.  The 72-hour blamestorm seems almost as crazy as the events of Saturday,  drowning out just about everything reasonable citizens should really be debating.  But instead of looking at gun laws that allow an unstable student  to buy an automatic weapon in 15 minutes or less, we’re talking about who besides the shooter has blood on their hands.

Paul Krugman, for one, wrote in the Sunday New York Times that the toxic rhetoric from the right is to blame.  He specifically named Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly among those who stoke the anger.  Krugman connects the dots from a 2009 Homeland Security report that warned of a rise in right wing extremism to a 300% rise in threats against members of Congress.  He writes that many threats were made by those mentally disturbed, and then offers this premise: that something in America is whipping up a great number of them  to act out their illness with violence.

Paul!  The Nobel committee is calling.  They want their prize back.  Your argument doesn’t even factor in, uh, the impact of the economy on mental health. Read the rest of this entry »