Stories I’d like to see

A Clinton alternative, more ABC legal woes and where's A-Rod?

This story, a regular column, was originally published on

1. The Hillary alternatives:

Can it really be such a certainty that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 that the media is taking the right approach in essentially ignoring other possible Democratic candidates?

In any other situation we would be seeing profiles of a half dozen or more alternatives. But not now. Yet there has to be some possibility that the former secretary of state will opt not to run and some possibility that, for a variety of reasons, she will not win the primary contest.

One reason Clinton might not be inevitable is that inevitable often doesn’t sell well. Besides, someone could emerge who Democratic primary voters decide is a better, fresher face. Which is why we should start seeing stories about those alternatives.

So far only Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has gotten much attention. (True, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has gotten some press lately — but mostly for a series of clownish comments that should disqualify him, assuming he is ever taken seriously.)

What about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has high approval ratings but infuriates critics who decry his cautious, poll-driven approach to almost everything?

Or Amy Klobuchar, the highly regarded senator from Minnesota? I’d like to know more about her.

Ditto Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley? Does presiding over a state Obamacare website that made the launch of the federal one look professional say anything about how effective an executive O’Malley has been?

Who else should we be thinking about? I’m sure I am missing a bunch — which is my point.

Most of the political press was caught napping when it missed reporting any sign of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s upset in Virginia. It seems that they could be making the same mistake now on a much broader scale.

Maybe NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, television’s best political reporter, should start the course correction by spending one day a week on his MSNBC show, The Daily Rundown, examining Clinton alternatives. He could go over them one by one, even if some, like Cuomo, are certain not to agree to sit for an interview.

2. ABC’s continuing pink slime problem:

Nearly two years ago, I wrote here that a libel case brought by Beef Products, Inc., a South Dakota company, against ABC might spell real trouble for the network. In a series of 11 reports, including on its Diane Sawyer flagship evening newscast, the network charged that Beef Products and other meat producers were adulterating their goods with filler called “pink slime.”

I wrote then that, even with the First Amendment hurdles inherent in any suit like this, the specific facts alleged by Beef Products’ heavyweight Chicago legal team amounted to one of the most persuasive libel and defamation complaints I had ever read.

Since then, the case has gone through the preliminary motions to dismiss — typically the first rounds in any libel case. But last month the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the suit against ABC could proceed on Beef Products’ claims for damages suffered because of the network’s disparagement of its product. (The company laid off employees and shut factories following the ABC series.)

This could become a great courtroom battle. Someone ought to get out ahead of it with a story setting up the coming drama, covering everything from the workers who lost their jobs, to ABC’s editorial process and planned defense, to what hotel Sawyer is going to stay in when she gets summoned to Union County, SD, to testify.

Where’s A-Rod?

What’s Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez up to these days? Someone ought to try to find him. We know that A-Rod — who was suspended for the season for using steroids and covering it up — recently dropped the suit he brought against the Yankees’ doctor, in which he made the far-fetched charge that the doctor and the Yankees had conspired not to fix his injured hips in order to keep him off the field.

But other than that, there’s not much we know about what the athlete who was once one of America’s greatest baseball talents has been doing in his prolonged off-season.

Is he involved in any businesses? More important, is he working out, and what kind of shape is he in?

A-Rod has said he intends to come back next year to fulfill the remaining three years of his 10-year, $275 million contract. Will his doing so be anything other than a drain on the team’s treasury?

After all, Rodriguez is 40 years old, has had several serious injuries and won’t have played professionally for more than a year and a half. If he’s not doing much more than keeping in good enough shape to show up and take the money, that would be a good story.

Then again, with Derek Jeter retiring, there’s a new opening next year in the Yankee infield. And Rodriguez always was a hard worker. If he’s quietly preparing for the comeback of the century — with Rocky-like, relentless work-outs — that would be a great story.

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Steven Brill , the author of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight To Fix America’s Schools, has written for magazines including New York, The New Yorker, Time, Harper's, and The New York Times Magazine. He founded and ran Court TV, The American Lawyer magazine, ten regional legal newspapers, and Brill's Content magazine. He also teaches journalism at Yale, where he founded the Yale Journalism Initiative.