November 11, 2003
Three Things Gore TV Must Get Right
This post has been an age in the making, so let’s get to it. Gore TV: a new cable news channel for young people. I think it has potential. But how to make sure it doesn’t suck?
So glad you asked.
I offer three guidelines gleaned from my extensive experience as a young person disappointed again and again by cable news channels.
Read on, Gore & Co. — get this right.
It’s all about the web.
Clearly you will rely on the digital cable providers of America to broadcast your pirate signal deep into The Matrix. But what happens when all those zombified kids snap out of it and want to join your tribe of hip, young news rebels?
What will you tell them? “Stay tuned”?
No. You’ll tell them: Click over to Gore TV dot net, and let’s keep talking.
Your website should be a place to talk to your viewers about their concerns, curiosities, ideas, discoveries. There is a wave of participatory journalism on the rise, and Gore TV can use a great website to catch it, ride it, push it, and really get it.
Your website should also be a place to extend your coverage with background material and links to blogs and other news sites. It should be an equal partner with the TV operation, with a fully integrated staff and a shared bottom line.
I mean, come on. Why settle for another one-way news channel with a one-way website when you can build a hive of interaction and inquiry instead?
It’s all about the tone.
You must not hire TV people.
At least, you must not hire TV people who talk like this:
An outbreak (pause) of deadly food poisoning. Tonight, a look at (chin sharply down) what went wrong. (Head ten degrees left.) But first (wait for it) our top stories. (Nod.)
Gyeahhh. It’s so creepy. Someone deprogram these people.
At Gore TV, every voice should check Authority at the door. Every cadence should be authentic. Every face should look at the camera like it’s a friend, a co-worker, a confidante.
Tonally, you should be more blog than broadcast news; more This American Life than This Week; more Howard Dean than Dick Gephardt and, for that matter, more Dick Cheney than George Bush; more Daily Show than Nightli — actually, no, scratch that. Nightline’s tone is pretty good: cordial, curious, personal. Gore TV can work with that.
It’s all about the scope.
It has been a traditional goal of news organizations to provide comprehensive coverage of current events.
Well, it ain’t the 20th century anymore. Comprehensiveness is a vanishing goalpost, a glimmer in the eye of Google News.
Face it: Gore TV will be one small piece of a sprawling media mosaic. If the channel’s viewers are as young and engaged as you hope, they’ll get their news from The New York Times, from CNN, from their school paper, from Fark.com, from their buddy’s blog.
And they’ll get it from Gore TV, too, but only if you consciously focus your resources to carve out mega-niches where you can do better work than anyone else in the world.
My suggestions, for starters:
- Structure of a Scientific Revolution — from gadgets to genomics
- The New World — trade, culture, security, diplomacy
- Pop Culture Outpost — genres and subcultures
Leave the celebrity trials to CNN. Leave the markets to CNBC. Leave the election spin and counter-spin to the Washington Post.
Sure, do politics, do policy, do Iraq — but with nuance. Pick angles: the people behind the scenes at campaign HQ; radical visions of American government; meta-journalism in Baghdad, following reporters around on the job.
You’re starting to get the idea.