Interview: Michael Medved

Michael Medved is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host who has made the transformation from a young liberal to a prominent conservative.

Michael Medved is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host who has made the transformation from a young liberal to a prominent conservative.

He covers the intersection between pop culture and politics through his radio show, as well as his 10 non-fiction books, 12 years on PBS, and contributions as a film critic to CNN and the New York Post.

PRWeek: What do you think of the press coverage of President Bush's administration?
Michael Medved:
That's a very broad question, because the press coverage has been very different and it's changed in many different directions at once. The initial, pre-9/11 coverage of the Bush administration was extremely harsh and unfair, and it carried on this illusion that the election had been decided by a Supreme Court vote - that he was not a president who had been elected, but installed. It was far too much - too much credibility given by the mainstream press to the notion that the Bush administration was somehow illegitimate because of a stolen election.

When they finally did the pooled coverage between USA Today and The New York Times and determined that Bush actually had won Florida, it got undercovered and buried. Then 9/11 suddenly happened, and with the rest of the country rallying behind Bush, the media did, as well. For several months, he was then treated with affection and respect. With the immediate run-up and the aftermath to the Iraq war, I think the press coverage turned again. It has been shockingly hostile. The most blatant example is the obsession with PlameGate, the idea that this is a terrible crime. And what is stunning about it [is] that when there was some suspicion that it might be Karl Rove, it was front-page news and the mystery of the century. When it was finally confirmed that it was Richard Armitage, this was the biggest non-story ever. They gave more coverage to the fact that Mark Felt was Deep Throat than to the revelation that Richard Armitage was responsible for PlameGate. It seems to me that this is a terrible indication, with press obsessions that are in their very nature partisan.

PRWeek: You recently wrote an article about "America Hatred." Do you think that partly stems from the negative coverage that the Bush administration receives?
No, because "America Hatred" significantly predates this administration. One of the press myths is that Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were loved around the world, but Bush is not. Clinton and Carter were only accepted around the world to the extent that they indicted their own society. Most people around the world feel envy and resentment toward the US simply because our nation is deeply consequential, and Belgium, for example, is not.

PRWeek: As someone who covers the movie industry as well as politics, what do you think of the recent trend of turning some of our country's greatest disasters into full-length features?
It's always been thus. For many years, the top moneymaking movie of all time was Titanic. It's quite normal to turn disasters into feature film, and then show the triumph of the human spirit as it responds to those disasters. When they don't do real-life disasters like Titanic or Hindenburg, they made old movies about the San Francisco earthquake and the great Chicago fire; when they don't cover real-life disasters, they invent them. Gone with the Wind is very much a disaster movie. It is about the terrible devastation in Georgia during the war between the states, and the horrors of reconstruction. The top moneymaking movie of all time, in terms of how many people saw it, is still Birth of a Nation, which in its own way is a disaster movie. I don't think this is a new trend.

PRWeek: Do you prefer the print or broadcast medium?
There are different advantages. The advantage of talk-radio is the immediate feedback and the interactivity and the ability of people to come and challenge you and you respond to that challenge. I love it every day. Doing live talk radio is like nothing else. Having done television for 12 years, I feel that television gives you less of a chance than anything else to express your opinion because it's so constrained by time, or whether your eyebrows are crooked. Television has its own drawbacks. The advantage of print, of course, is that you go back and polish, and you correct. You sometimes reconsider your thinking and reorder your points. You go through a process that no one worth his salt simply disgorges emotions on a page. You go through a process of shaping it that can often deepen and enhance your perspective. I'll give you an example of that. I do 60-second commentaries that are distributed to radio stations around the country. I did a 60-second commentary, and then I tried to expand it to a 1600 word piece. That process was very good for me. It gave me a different perspective on the original point that I was making.

PRWeek: What are some of the life lessons concerning politics and worldviews you have tried to impress upon your own kids as they enter adulthood?
My Book, Right Turns, is sub-titled Liberal Activist to Conservative Champion: In 35 Unconventional Lessons. So a lot of those life lessons I have written about very directly. The one life lesson that I would most care about conveying to my three children is that ultimately, substance counts more than image. I think it's a fascinating thing. I think one of the reasons that people are so intrigued by celebrity culture is because they actually embrace that lesson. Part of celebrity culture is Tom Cruise - he's the richest, most handsome guy, and has been able to hang around with so many beautiful women - but he's a nut and his life is a mess.  This basic idea that the icons of stylishness, envy, and desirability are often hollow is particularly important to convey, especially to teenagers who can be so devastatingly impacted by what is trendy and fashionable.

PRWeek: What have been some of your experiences with PR pros? What is the best way for them to approach you?
I'm always stunned by publicists who will call my show having no clue what we talk about to more than 2 million people for 15 hours a week. I'm one of the most public Jewish people today, aside from perhaps Joe Lieberman, and you would be stunned by the number of calls I get from people presuming I do a Christian talk show.

Or people who call up and assume that I do entertainment news and views. We do cover the intersection of politics and pop-culture, but the idea that I would want to do a segment on the new pictures of the Tom Cruise baby - no, this is not my show! Anybody who listened to it for a half hour would understand that. Despite my grumpiness, I do appreciate the difficulties that PR professionals have to go through. I have been a book author, and I have been on the other side of the desk, and I appreciate it when my representatives are able to place me on good shows. Some of our best hours of radio have been because working PR professionals have made a good match between a guest and our show.

If you ever call my phone number and get my personal answering machine, you will get a very nasty message that says, "If you are publicist and you are not a personal friend, if you are trying to pitch a topic for the radio station, do not leave a message on my personal number. I will ignore it, it will annoy me, and I don't want to hear it."

I've had a number of people comment that this is the most aggressive answering-machine message they have ever heard. I'm proud of it.

Name: Michael Medved

Outlet: The Michael Medved Show

Title: Host

Preferred contact method:

Web site:

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