Now that the 2010 midterm election cycle is over, people have a new opportunity to reflect on the 2008 election and its media coverage. In February 2009, John Ziegler released his documentary, Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted, a two-hour review of the difference in coverage between Obama at the top of one ticket and Palin at the bottom of another. Now Ziegler has a new, expanded version of Media Malpractice and a brand-new distribution strategy that puts the documentary in almost every household in America beginning tomorrow morning.
I interviewed John via e-mail about his new video-on-demand strategy, media coverage during the midterms, and the Keith Olbermann controversy:
HA: How did you and your team develop the idea of Video On Demand marketing for the film? It’s a rather unusual strategy. Does this fit better for independent documentarians than the “traditional” (so to speak!) method of Internet sales and Amazon.com?
JZ: The first release was really forced to target the conservative base other than someone I might reach via being a guest on the Today Show and The View, but even when I made those appearances Obama”s approval rating was in the 70s so the “mainstream” wasn’t exactly open to the message. We also had some problems with the first release which hindered its reach. As a conservative in the film industry your options are extremely limited but I was simply unwilling to let this film and its incredibly important message die without really getting a chance to change minds. Finally, I signed a deal with a non-political distributor who specializes in VOD and in store DVD releases.and they have been surprisingly successful in getting the film and its new material on the DVD, into a position where it has the opportunity to be seen by people who don’t always watch Fox News or read Hot Air.
HA: How many households will get access to the film with VOD distribution? Who are the major carriers/cable systems that will offer it?
I am told that up .to 80 million subscribers have access to the film via VOD as of [tomorrow]. Virtually every major VOD provider in the country is carrying it in some way. This includes Time Warner, Comcast, Cablevision,Cox, AT &T, Verizon, Direct TV and Dish Network. It would be nearly impossible for us to have a wider VOD release and I am unaware of any film of this type getting this kind of mainstream release.
HA: You’ve added 45 minutes to the film in updates. Is that primarily from media coverage during the 2008 election (the focus in the first version of Media Malpractice), or afterward?
JZ: There are at least 45 minutes of special features which focus on coverage on the film itself, which, by extension, essentially deals with how the media coverage of Palin and Obama has evolved. I include commentary of some of my major interviews for the film and reveal some pretty interesting stuff. For instance, I talk about the technical problem which totally altered the Matt Lauer interview, the shocking thing Barbara Walters told me she mistakenly thought Palin had said during the campaign, the “bitchy” thing Joy Behar did to me backstage, what really happened behind the scenes my arrest at USC’s Katie Couric journalism award ceremony and me telling Norah O’Donnell that she should have been fired, while on camera, twice, while on MSNBC.
HA: Did media coverage in the midterms with some of the Republican women running for office constitute the same kind of “malpractice” that your film documents from 2008 and Palin? Do you plan a Media Malpractice sequel about the midterms?
JZ: Obviously a lot of people have compared the negative coverage of Christine O’Donnell to that of Sarah Palin and there are some similarites. There is no question that both are attractive, female conservatives and that worked against both of them in the media (with the attractiveness also causing a ratings driven media obsession). However, I am of the belief that O’Donnell was less qualified for the position than Palin was and that the attacks were a bit more substantive. I would love to do a sequel for the midterms, but frankly because of the results and the fact that everything is old news in like two days I am not sure it is marketable and the margin of error for a filmmaker like me is so small that it would be really tough for me to pull the trigger on a project like “Media Malpractice” again. I have $350,000 of my own money into this film and without the media’s continuing Palin obsession I would be bankrupt.
HA: Has Palin started getting more respect from the national media after the past year of campaigning for conservative candidates?
JZ: There is no doubt that the coverage of Palin has evolved in her favor and she deserves credit fot that. In the ultimate karate move she now gets stronger every time one for the usual suspects with nothing else to complain about levies an unfair attack on her. Of course, the ultimate irony here is that since the media covers nearly everything she does, it gives her infinitely more power, and the reason they do that is not because they like/respect her, but because she is great for ratings. At this point the media REALLY wants her to run for President so I think that may also play a role here. I also think in a weird way, having Bristol do so well on Dancing With The Stars has also had a positive effect. But make no mistake, if Palin runs for President, especially if she wins the nomination, the media bias against her will be beyond extreme.
HA: Do you think MSNBC should have suspended Keith Olbermann for donating to Democrats he was interviewing on his show? Would Olbermann’s actions be more malpractice, or a more honest way of understanding the bias of America’s journalists?
JZ: I am actually in your camp on this Ed. Of all things that Olbermann has said that should have gotten him kicked off the air, it is amazing that one of the most honest things he has ever done is what finally does it. I am a big believer in freedom and disclosure. No one is totally objective and we shouldn’t pretend that that are. Of course I am still waiting for Keith to formally respond to my year long standing offer to give $100,000 to his favorite charity if he debates me for his whole show about Sarah Palin. Looks like that is, unfortunately, not going to happen. The guy is an ass and a coward.
I just hope that conservatives (especially those in the media who constantly complain about media bias) understand what an incredible opportunity this mainstream release is for the cause. If we take advantage of it this release actually has the rare chance to change minds of people who we usually can’t reach about what really happened in 2008 and how wrong the current mainstream narratives of President Obama and Sarah Palin really are. If we don’t take advantage of it and learn from history, I fear that 2012 may be a needless repeat of 2008.
Note: John will join me tomorrow in bonus minutes on The Ed Morrissey Show to talk more about the new release.
Update: Tommy Christopher also interviewed John for Mediaite.