The Search for Intelligent Discourse

Broadcast industry should take a step back to think about how TV news and our democracy might benefit from a shift in mindset

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AlGore_2011.jpgIf your interest is in breaking news, horse-racing coverage of the election, or socalled "fair and balanced" coverage, you can certainly find it. In fact, you can find
"breaking" news just about anywher -- on air, online, and on mobile devices. And
since new news is considered of highest value, the media naturally puts great importance
on getting news first, and "scoops" are considered all-important. I would
like to humbly suggest, however, that the broadcast industry ought to consider taking
a step back to think about how both television news and our democracy might benefit from a shift in our mindset -- away from just breaking the news, and toward fixing it.

People want to understand how the news of the day affects them. They want context,
insight and informed opinion. They want journalists who get to the truth and not just
present a clichéd "on the one hand and on the other hand" shortcut. They want a news network that connects the dots and makes sense out of a complicated
world that is all the more confusing because of the cacophony of noises.

We have obviously experienced a profound shift in the media landscape
in just the past 10 years; the shape, form and substance of almost all
content are all in flux. As members of the media, we have a responsibility
not only to anticipate what viewers want and need, but also to satisfy
our viewers’ sophisticated palate with content-rich programming. And
that's why Joel Hyatt and I founded Current TV in 2005. We felt that
the media landscape had fundamentally taken a turn for the worse. The
multiple agendas that broadcasters have to serve when they are part of
large conglomerates have created real frustration for television viewers.

As a consumer of news myself, I have had the feeling for some time now
that we've reached a tipping point where Americans are looking for a fresh
and independent perspective, an unvarnished point of view—and that's what
they deserve. Some of our competitors may see us as being on the left side of the spectrum, but the entire spectrum has been pulled so far to the right that we believe that we are completely right about what viewers are yearning for as we enter what
is sure to be one of the most heated, energetic and fascinating election years in memory.

Networks owned by conglomerates often cannot follow our lead because of their owners'
broad agendas that go far beyond seeking the truth, wherever it may be. What is needed are
more independent networks that are not beholden to the larger and broader interests of their
conglomerate owners.

Our mission has always been to shine a light on important
issues, to spark debate and to speak truth to power.
We have a great advantage in that we are not beholden to
anyone, or part of any larger corporate structure. Unlike
other networks, we have the opportunity to call it like we see
it -- without being influenced by the so-called establishment.
For any news organization, the goal should be to present the
best unvarnished truth they can find on any issue, for anyone
who wants to gain insight into the tactics and strategies
that have come to define our political process.

So it is no surprise to me that Current was the first
network to report on Occupy Wall Street. When others
were reporting on the news of the day, we realized that
this incipient movement was a game-changer, and then we
helped to influence the direction of the news coverage and
the headlines.

Ultimately, the fact that we are truly independent is a great
advantage. And I hope that distributors of media will allow
for more independent networks and that our competitors will
raise their own journalistic bar in the coming year. In the end,
our interest isn't in breaking the news—there are plenty of outlets
that can provide viewers with that kind of content. But I do
hope that Current TV will help us all to understand the news.
I feel strongly that we, as a nation, have got to have access to
more than just the sound bites and static that have -- with a
precious few exceptions, like 60 Minutes -- become all too familiar on television.

It is irresponsible to address the serious problems our country faces with sound
bites only. We need analysis based on facts and informed by insight and intelligence.
We need reason, and not just emotion, to drive our understanding of
the events affecting our lives.

2012 is the perfect time to create, produce and launch the kind of programming
that offers audiences a fresh look at what's happening with the
elections. It's time to offer in-depth, intelligent contextual analysis of
what's relevant and use television to create a multi-way conversation that
includes viewers and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas. Far
from being discouraged by the existing competition, we are surprised that
there aren't more networks out there trying to serve an audience hungry
for more thoughtful news content and commentary.

Today, more than ever, audiences are seeking intelligent discourse
instead of cynicism and sniping. They are craving away to become part
the of conversation; they are not satisfied being passive outsiders. They are
demanding tools that can help them become immersed and involved in making
a difference on the issues they care about. I am proud of what Current has
accomplished, but there's still much more to do. By delivering a multi-screen news
experience, all media organizations out there have a real opportunity to become truly vital
sources of information for a new breed of savvy, intelligent, politically engaged news viewers.
And therein lies one of the best answers to fi xing the problems in the news industry and, in
the process, revitalizing our democracy.

Former Vice President Al Gore is cofounder and chairman of Current TV, among other ventures.