“Current” to launch August 1st

Al Gore and Joel Hyatt have decided they’re going to call their new cable news network “current.” The debut is August 1st. This was all announced with great fanfare yesterday in San Francisco, and — riding the current wave of citizens media talk — they’ve gotten a lot of bytes of coverage. On the whole, observers are cautiously optimistic and are reserving final judgment until it launches.

I wandered over to their site, current.tv, and watched the videos provided by citizen video journalists (I call them VJs, but they call them “current journalists” or CJs), and I encourage you to do the same. I was underwhelmed (being kind) by their $15,000 contest winner, and I have to agree with Jay Rosen about this.

I wonder if Current will be flooded with good-but-not-great material, with junk, with well-intentioned but unworkable pieces, with too much that’s worth airing, or what… I will also be watching the kind of relationships that evolve among the network staff, the huge community of potential contributors, and the users.
As I noted in a December essay about events to watch in 2005, I believe this thing will launch to tepid (at best) reviews while building a solid foundation for the future. I also wrote that Current’s use of VJs will break the traditional reporter/photographer mold, and that will get more attention than Gore’s politics.

Most people don’t realize that Ted Turner’s real contribution to video news was not CNN itself but graphics. He took graphics producing equipment out of the hands of union engineers and put it in the hands of artists, thus revolutionizing the business. In the same manner, Gore and Hyatt will be known for advancing the VJ concept in this country, moreso, I think, than citizens media. Even the original citizens media model, OhmyNews!, builds its citizen reports around and with a stable of staff journalists. The same will ultimately be true for Current, but they will still employ the VJ concept.


  1. Terry…

    You bring up something here as an aside that I’ve been wondering about… is there a better way to describe these citizen journalists. Out here on the Left Coast, I think a lot of us are skittish of using the word citizen since it implies that I care about what that person’s immigration status might be. You suggest VJ’s… but for me I picture some big haired dude on early 80’s MTV.

    Current Journalists is interesting. I’ve been kicking around Community Journalist.

    Any thoughts?

  2. Good point, Brian. “Citizen” is more than a bit Orwellian. As a movement, I think “citizens media” works just fine, but I’m with you on naming one who works within the movement. I’ve heard “people’s media,” but that sounds a little socialistic. Your idea isn’t bad, but does it really describe the concept? Grassroots is descriptive, but who wants to be a lawn?

    The title will be birthed at ground level. That’s all I can say for sure.

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