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Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV

Poppy Harlow will be a welcome addition to CNN weekday lineup

Zurawik: Poppy Harlow is one of the few journalists who acknowledge the pain of those who lost jobs to NAFTA.

CNN announced Tuesday that Poppy Harlow and John Berman would be taking over the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekday time period starting Monday.

They replace Carol Costello, who told viewers Tuesday that she was moving to HLN as part of a relocation to Los Angeles to be with her husband, who went west for his job.

I like Costello, but I am truly happy to see Harlow get this promotion.

The reason: Last week, in an interview Harlow conducted with a former ambassador to Mexico, she showed a rare understanding and empathy for the victims of trade policies that have proven to be job killers in the U.S. She sounded to me like one of the few journalists who actually took the call to try and understand why Americans in formerly blue states like Wisconsin and Michigan voted for Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton in November.

Harlow was interviewing John Negroponte in connection with President Trump saying he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"I can't think of a better morning to have you on, given that NAFTA was negotiated on your watch," she said to Negroponte on Friday's show. "And you endorsed Clinton publicly in the election."

Negroponte quickly started spinning on the greatness that is NAFTA.

"Well, first of all ... NAFTA has been good for the United States and Mexican economies," he said. "Trade has quadrupled or quintupled since the agreement was signed 25 years ago and there have been all sorts of benefits on both sides."

And he was only warming up when Harlow respectfully tried to challenge his spin.

"However, isn't it seeing it through rose-colored glasses, to say that it has just been beneficial to the United States?" she asked. "I mean, I've been out ... across this country over the last year, talking to people whose jobs were lost directly because of NAFTA. Is it wrong for the president to say there's got to be a better deal?"

"Some of these jobs have been lost because of globalization," Negroponte said. "Some of these jobs have been lost because of technology. Some of these jobs have been saved, because the factories move to Mexico instead of to China so that they were at least related economic activities that were conducted in the United States.
But the overall benefit has been one of growth in both economic activity and jobs."

"All right," Harlow said trying to find common ground. "... Just as a point of fact, we know at least 800,000 jobs have been lost as a result of it. But let's move on to whether or not--

But Negroponte was not looking for a middle ground. In his mind, NAFTA was great, and she was wrong.

"But you cited the fact that some several million jobs are related to U.S.-Mexico," he said, interrupting her.  

"But you and I can't know the pain of the people who have seen their livelihood go out the window," she replied.

Hallelujah.

I actually put my coffee down and started applauding the TV screen. I might have yelled, "yessssssss" a few times as well.

Finally, a reporter who actually acknowledged the pain out there in Rust Belt America.

I am not going to name all the gasbags in print at places like The New York Times who vowed to start listening to America in November and have done nothing in their writings since to show they have ventured out of their their tone-deaf, elite bubbles.

God bless Harlow for reminding viewers of the victims of such trade policies.

The word "globalization" doesn't ease the pain, and it needs to be challenged just the way she did. Globalization is not some magic force sent by a god who demands the sacrifice of jobs, careers and lives.

Good luck in Harlow's new job with Berman.

And, by the way, none of this is to say I don't think Berman won't be a welcome addition, too. I love his energy. This is a team I'll be watching weekday mornings.

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