Why It's Time To Overhaul This Country's TV News Model

It is time -- long overdue, actually -- to revolutionize the news model in this country, certainly the conventional television and cable news model.

It is stale and stodgy and utterly predictable, and populated by the same faces and voices year after year who long ago ran out of insights and are now just protecting their places in our opinion landscape.

Although a major overhaul is warranted, I'm willing to start relatively small -- proposing here two new shows (both of which I have registered with the Writers Guild, so if you like them, don't steal them, and if you don't, let me know).

We need an "American Idol" for talking heads. Simply stated, we need some new faces and voices to clear out, or at least challenge, the current much too familiar pundit class.


I can't be the only person who wants to shout at Chris Matthews or Mika Brzezinski or Megyn Kelly (see, it isn't based on ideology) because they are always there, and they always say the same, predictable things, day after day.

Their guests are always the same (yes, once in a great while someone new will appear, then vanish with equal speed, leaving the same talking heads behind -- the former advisor to Bill Clinton or strategist for John McCain or campaign manager for Al Gore or ambassador under George H W Bush).

I am of the unshakable belief that there are hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of smart, insightful, witty, engaging people out there whose opinions are fresh and thought-provoking, and who deserve to be heard.

We just haven't found them yet. They are on campuses -- not only ones with $60,000-a-year price tags attached -- in office parks, in factories, on communes, even perhaps on street corners. And they likely don't have the connections needed to be nominated for a MacArthur genius grant or a recommended for spot on a talk show.


They are affiliated with organizations. They work on their own with no organizational support. They may work for emerging tech companies, or they may barely know how to access the Internet. They are under 25, over 65 and everything in between.

They have something worthwhile to say. They just need the coveted "platform" -- a fancy word for opportunity and venue -- to say it.

So let's find them.

The conventional news model people will tell you they are constantly searching for new people. Not true. New people are risky and a threat to ratings. Dull and familiar is safer than new and exciting.

If American Idol and the Voice and the X Factor, and on and on, can succeed on the premise that there is talent out there that won't be found in traditional ways, the same logic extends to people with knowledge and opinions that we would like to hear.

Let's put on a show. Maybe the judges would be "names" that are familiar, or maybe, better yet, even the judges would be fresh faces.

We could shower the cable television and internet landscape with thoughtful folks we've never seen before.

Yes, it would take awhile -- but only awhile -- to get over the "who the hell are they?" questions. But nearly everyone who is a "celebrity" now was once a "who the hell are they?" question.

I believe we hunger for new pundits nearby as much as we hunger for new singers and actors and new dancers.

Which leads to my second program idea.

"Say Something Different."

We not only crave new voices and faces, we want people to say things that are not entirely predictable.

I might resist the urge to turn off Joe Scarborough or Anderson Cooper or Gretchen Carlson if they would just once in a blue moon surprise me with their questioning or opinions.

Just say something different, something out of character, something that makes us wonder if we heard you correctly.

I have to believe people would flock to that program, and if I'm wrong, well, that's sad.

Familiarity makes people comfortable, I understand that. Seeing the same old faces at the same old time every day makes us think the world isn't always crazy and changing.

But if one believes that there are thousands of voices who ought to be heard that don't have a platform, and thousands of things that ought to be said that aren't being said, then that familiarity we seem to like so much is in fact flat and repetitive and maddening because it crowds out new voices.

These are just a start. A radical revamping of the news model is crying out if we allow ourselves to get past the question of "who the hell are they?" We did it with American Idol and its multiple spawn.

Which reminds me. Who the hell am I? No one. Just a guy who hungers for new faces to share their knowledge. Just a guy who is sure there is a different and better way of doing things. Like tens of thousands of others, some of whom will revolutionize the news business.

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