A few months after I happily, if involuntarily, left the newspaper business, TV sportscaster Fred Roggin pitched a wacky idea to me for a new type of fast-paced news commentary show he was trying to develop called "The Filter."
Roggin wanted to engage hot topics of the day with available video footage and have a variety of informed and opinionated people offer their takes on what it all meant, to provide a context to stimulate conversation..
His bosses at NBC were no more supportive of the idea than my bosses as the Daily News were when pitched with innovative ways to reinvent journalism at a time when the form and structure of the "news" has become obsolete to the point that there are now more empty desks than working editors and reporters in newsrooms everywhere.
But Roggin persevered with help from producer Jared Kiemeney and a few technical and support staff willing to do for love what they weren't allowed to do for money.
It took a year to finally get green-lighted to experiment in the obscure world of digital cable Channel 225 where NBC, to its credit, is trying out new ideas to salvage its news operations at a time when afternoon ratings have fallen so precipitously it's likely some stations will give up entirely.
Over the last six months, "The Filter with Fred Roggin" has been refined and a team of commentators put together: Actress and social activist Debra Skelton, columnist and author Amy Alkon, lawyer and radio talk show host Leo Terrell, Witness LA editor Celeste Fremon, LA Metblogs editor Ruth Waytz, social ethicist Charlotte Laws, even former City Councilman Jack Weiss, among others.
Next Tuesday, "The Filter" will begin to be shown on Channel 4 itself at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday, re-broadcasts of the previous night's 7:30 p.m. live broadcast on digital cable 225. The intention is to go live on Channel 4 in a few months.
If you're reading this, you know what a revolution is taking place in how we get our news and information because of the Internet. It's energizing and liberating to play a small part in it on TV, on my blog and on my community-based news site OurLA.org which brings together citizen and professional journalism to tell the story of LA's political and civic culture.
I spent 40 years developing the skills of a corporate journalist and trying to beat them and their pseudo-objectivity that sucks the life and the truth out of what is really going on.
Just the "facts" don't tell the story. It takes a trained detective to create a narrative of the facts of a case so a suspect can be identified and prosecuted. So why would we think ordinary can make sense of what's happening without a storyline, a context, without insights from knowledgeable and experienced professionals?
Corporate journalism as we know it with its spectacular profits and virtual monopolies is finished, as doomed as dinosaurs in the ice age or carriage makers in the auto age.
For all the talk in the news industry about re-invention, TV news still trivializes us and newspapers bore us.
Afternoon TV news ratings are a fraction of what they were a few years ago, one all-news radio station has closed down, newspaper circulation has tumbled by as much as half and employment in newspaper publishing has fallen to what it was 50 years ago.
We are getting our news in bits and bytes on blogs and websites, emails, Facebook, Twitter. Ordinary people are becoming reporters and interpreters of the news on personal or group blogs. All across the country, trained journalists and ordinary citizens are becoming active participants in a revolution that is making us better informed and more empowered to affect the course of our public lives.
That's what makes experiments in the corporate journalism world like "The Filter" exciting. Mainstream media has the resources and reach to make a big contribution to this new world order.
The media, like the activist community, has been talking about change for years without actually changing anything. The optimist in me is seeing action replacing talk and, as we all know, actions speak louder than words.
You can watch excerpts of "The Filter" on youtube.com, including my latest contribution with my partner in commentary Debra Skelton or watch tonight on Channel 225 or next week on Channel 4. Your feedback is welcome.
Republished with permission from Ron Kaye L.A.