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Posts Tagged ‘John Seigenthaler’

How Al Jazeera America Aims to Cover More Than ‘Political Three-Ring Circuses’


In the latest video from MediabistroTV’s “What’s Your Show?” series, we look at Al Jazeera America’s primetime newscast with TV news veteran John Seigenthaler, which airs at 8pmET weeknights.

The news start-up has many current and former DCers on its roster. Network President Kate O’Brian and SVP of news David Doss used to work out of the nation’s capital. “Inside Story” host Ray Suarez, “America Tonight” host Joie Chen, White House Correspondent Mike Viqueira, and Senior Executive Producer Kim Bondy all currently work from DC.

And Seigenthaler, who is based in New York, tells FishbowlDC that AJAM’s mission is quite “radical”: providing unbiased, in-depth journalism. His show’s Sr. EP, Mary Caraccioli, tell us AJAM offers something different than the cable competition covering the “political three-ring circuses.”

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How Do You SOTU?

SOTUSure, you can watch the big speech on plain old TV tonight if you want to, but that is by no means the only way to get your SOTU fix this year. Here’s how the political media are covering their “Super Bowl” tonight:

The Atlantic and National Journal will be hosting a State of the Union Congressional Debrief on the morning of Wednesday, January 29.  Molly Ball and Steve Clemons of The Atlantic and Ronald Brownstein of Atlantic Media will be joined on stage by members of congress for a discussion and expert analysis of the President’s speech.  Speakers include Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL).

CNN will start coverage at 7 PM with Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, and Jake Tapper. Guests include Jon Favreau and Karen Hughes. Throughout the night, Jim Scuitto will be reporting from Iran, Tom Foreman will subject Obama’s claims on economic inequality to a “Reality Check,” and Suzanne Malveaux will moderate a focus group in Des Moines, IA. Jake Tapper will lead the post-speech coverage, followed by John King. And of course, Peter Hamby will be live streaming his Politi-cast during the SOTU and the responses at

TIME will stream its first-ever live webcast on the President’s speech and GOP response starting Tuesday at 8:30PM at The coverage will be anchored by TIME Senior Political Analyst Mark Halperin, and joined with analysis from Michael Scherer, Bobby Ghosh, Rana Foroohar, and Callie Schweitzer.

Al Jazeera American begins coverage at 6 PM  with Tony Harris, Ali Velshi, David Shuster and Richelle Carey. Guests will include Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. AJA social editors will live blog the speech at SeigenthalerJoie Chen and Ray Suarez take over coverage at 7 PM. Coverage continues at midnight with “America Tonight.”

Roll Call will be hosting a watch party here starting at 8:40 PM. Political Editor Shira T. Center will moderate a Google hangout that features Senior Editor David Hawkings and Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni to preview President Obama’s address. After the speech, Bellantoni will take you live inside Statuary Hall to get instant reactions from members. Center and Hawkings will join the conversation to talk about the implications of the president’s address.

Politico will start coverage at 8:30 PM with Mike Allen, John F. Harris, Anna Palmer, Manu Raju via live stream here. You will also be able to submit questions to POLITICO’s Facebook page after the speech using Facebook’s Q and A feature, for answers from POLITICO Deputy White House Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand. They will also host an event the day after SOTU presented by the Innovation Alliance at 8 AM at the Capitol Hilton. Guests to be announced.

Huffington Post will live stream a speech from Rosanne Barr at 11 PM at HuffPost Live, immediately following the Tea Party response.

Civility is Nice. But Could it Put You to Sleep?

Politeness ensues around the roundtable.

Even the dinner table oozed civil discourse.

A question to ask ourselves: Can civil, polite conversation still be entertaining?

If you’re cable news, the land of shouting loudmouths, not likely. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Wednesday evening was meant to be civil. What began as cocktails on the lawn in the backyard led to dinner and darkness falling over Georgetown’s historical Halcyon House. Sponsored by Liberty Mutual and organized by’s George Uribe and Peter Zorich, both longtime TV producers, the event mixed politicians and journalists in an unusual format of hypothetical situations. Sitting around a gorgeous round wooden table, participants were put in roles and asked to debate faux scenarios — without cussing one another out.

Easier said than done, right?

The Players: Reps. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WVa.), NJ‘s Congressional Reporter Major Garrett, Catherine “Kiki” Mclean, former Senior Adviser to Hillary Clinton‘s Presidential Campaign and founder of the Congressional Civility Caucus, and former mayor Adrian Fenty. The moderator: Former NBC News anchor John Seigenthaler.

But first, a dinner flowing with red wine, followed by jumbo lump Maryland crabcake, Springfield Farm lamb loin, warm pineapple upsidedown cake with coconut sorbet and coffee. A long country wooden table was set as though the guests were royalty. It was that beautiful and would have been offensive to even consider saying something unbecoming. Every object was brought in expressly for the event and even Martha Stewart might have been impressed. Perfection was long sheer white curtains from towering ceilings, colorful hanging lights,  fancy goblets, unusual silverware and oak place settings that looked to be freshly sliced off trees and flown in from the forest just for the occasion.

The scene was set for an event that allowed for something so rare in Washington: candor. And something else: Although the situations were invented, each participant eventually shared personal details as the evening wore on. Who would have thought it possible for an event based on phony hypotheticals to allow D.C. types who have to watch every word they say to open up?

The first topic: The great divide between the political parties.

Kingston talked social media — “You can insulate yourself in your chat room and your Facebook.” And Fenty attacked the media. “It’s the 24-hour news cycle,” he said. To which everyone laughed. “It’s the media’s fault,” Seigenthaler said, partially mocking him. Fenty glanced at his watch and replied, “Look at how long it took me to say that!” McClean added this: “The great moments in our country came with bipartisanship. I would also say there are minority extreme voices at both ends.”

Hypothetical #1. A potential campaign in which one candidate gets news of drunken photographs of his opponent. The campaign is three weeks out. The pictures will get out with few or no fingerprints. You’re the campaign strategist. What does he do? Garrett: “As a campaign strategist, certainly.” Fenty: “Winning elections drive so much of the incivility. If you’re goal is to win you’re going to do what it takes.” McLean: “The issue is, is there relevance?” Kingston says release the pictures and proudly so. “My thinking is you shouldn’t let someone do your bidding. I’d say, ‘We released the pictures and you’re damn right’” we did. Capito: “You have to be able to live with yourself.” Fenty: “The question to me is, how does it affect the general public? They’re turned off by it.”

On occasion, participants slipped back into their real-life roles. “Our job is not about having amnesia about what you say,” said Garrett, eyeing the politicians around the table. He continued, “No one cares why I got out of cable news, but I was a reporter surrounded by people who were loud and angry.” Now, he says, he has more conversations filled with depth. McLean joked, “I’ll get an escort on the way out to my car.”

During the course of the debates, personal details arose. Capito shared that scandal involving her father came into her campaign and she had to decide whether it was appropriate for her to run. Fenty said during both of his mayoral campaigns, rumors swirled about him beating his wife. Despite his knock on the media earlier, he said, “The media never ran it. I think there’s integrity and rules that they follow.”

The bottom line? Washington may need more of these roundtables, as evidenced by the rapt guests who fixated on what participants had to say and laughed along with them. But don’t tell that to Robert Gleason Jr., Chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania, who was conked out on a sofa for most of the event. Someone might want to tell him when an event like this is being filmed, pssst…you might not want to nod off.

Adrian Fenty and John Seigenthaler.

Extravagant table decor.

See more photographs and post roundtable reaction…

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An Evening of Civility: Really?

Responsibility and civility in Washington?

They are the stunning themes of a roundtable dinner Wednesday night at Georgetown’s Halcyon House where politicians and journalists will mix, mingle and come up with intelligent solutions to hypothetical problems. Liberty Mutual is sponsoring “An Evening of Civility,” as part of their “Responsibility Project.” is producing it.

Participants include: NJ’s Major Garrett, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Catherine “Kiki” Mclean, Fmr Senior Advisor to Hillary Clinton‘s Presidential Campaign. John Seigenthaler, former NBC News anchor, will serve as moderator. A select audience of “top-tier” media, influencers and executives will be on hand throughout the evening.

Discussion will center on a trio of these hypothetical scenarios. Participants will attempt to solve each imagined situation. Theoretical cases range from a campaign in which damaging information about an opponent could be used for political advantage to a journalist conflicted by the “tenor of the 24-hour news cycle.”

Watch out. One of the goals is to go beyond the confines of the 30-second soundbite. This means we could be in for a long-winded evening with no potential for a cut off unless eggs are available. The discussion will be shot for use as a short film on Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project website.

Let’s hope Kingston doesn’t bring out his blow horn. We hear they’re popular in Savannah.