Dylan Ratigan, MSNBC’s Man of Steel

By Gail Shister 

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This episode of ‘The Dylan Ratigan Show’ is being brought to you by the letters N, U, C, O and R.

The new partnership between Ratigan’s MSNBC show and steel manufacturer Nucor Corp. is all about sunny days and chasing the clouds away, he says, comparing the union to that of ‘Sesame Street’ and PBS.

“It comes down to how clear your narrative is,” says Ratigan. Nucor CEO Dan DiMicco “understands my values system and what I advocate for. We couldn’t be more mutually aligned.”

Tops on Ratigan’s political agenda: Creating jobs, despite the United States’ “rigged trade policies, rigged tax policies and rigged banking system.”

Nucor’s sponsorship, currently limited to Ratigan’s “Steel on Wheels” bus tour, could expand, he says, and may eventually be added to the title. He’s also talking to other companies about similar deals. (Starbucks has a daily presence on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’) Such coalitions are the future for the cash-strapped industry, he adds.

Critics view Nucor’s “brand integration,” in Ratigan’s words, as an unholy alliance, rife with potential conflicts of interest.

Not gonna happen, says the former host of CNBC’s ‘Fast Money.’ The show’s content will remain sacrosanct, he promises.

“I won’t talk about Nucor on the air, absolutely not,” Ratigan says. “It’s not like Nucor is trying to sell steel to the home consumer.” He does acknowledge, however, that a scandal involving the CEO or the company “would be a personal conflict, I suppose.”

The naysayers should chill out, says executive producer Steve Friedman, former boss of ‘Today’ and CBS’s morning programming.

“Everybody can paint a bad-case scenario,” says Friedman, for whom cable is “the wild West” when compared to broadcast TV. “You always worry, but you can’t be paralyzed with fear. This is the future. We’re all experimenting.”

The practice is hardly new – Milton Berle’s ‘Texaco Star Theater’ (1948 to ’56) and John Cameron Swayze’s ‘Camel News Caravan’ and later, ‘Plymouth News Caravan,’ (1949 to ’56) quickly come to mind.

The difference now is that the host “has liability and equity with a partner, as opposed to a sponsor,” according to Ratigan. “There’s an aligned interest. We’ll pick our partners very carefully.”

In a “constant pitch of righteous indignation” at CNBC, Ratigan says he’s mellower since moving from money to politics. His contract runs until mid-2011.

“I’ve gone from being confrontational to accepting,” he says. “Being  for something is a better way to live than being against something. You can’t be angry forever.

“This is truly the most meaningful, rewarding job I’ve ever had.”