If there’s one bright side to the increasingly dispiriting story about two American journalists being sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea, it’s that it actually brings attention to TV journalists doing overseas reporting, which has increasingly been cut back by networks (and budget-slashing print outlets too). It also—if under unfortunate circumstances—reminds viewers of the channel doing it, among other things: tiny digital-cable channel Current TV.
Current got an initial splash of attention when it launched in 2005 for being “Al Gore’s network.” (There’s been talking of Gore interceding in talks to get the journalists released.) Then, the buzz was about the channel’s cofounder—who had written and spoken extensively about the influence of right-wing talk radio and Fox News hosts—and whether he was starting the enterprise as a liberal counterbalance. Eventually, it was MSNBC that actually emerged as “the liberal Fox News,” and Current faded from the buzz-o-sphere.
But as it turned out, from the get-go, Current never sought to be a channel with a roster of Olbermanns and Maddows. If it borrowed something from Gore, it was a more general sense of civic-mindedness and idealism. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of content on Current that leans left, but politics isn’t the driving force behind the channel. What is, is a sense of trying anything to reinvent the way TV does news.
As opposed to a 24-hour diet of headlines, debates and talk, the shoestring Current serves up a mix of short-form documentary, viewer video contributions, animation and quasi-entertainment pieces on technology and media (like InfoMania and The Rotten Tomatoes Show). It’s like the bastard child of CNN and MTV, as run by idealistic honor students. And its Vanguard program is devoted to world news from far-flung, relatively undercovered places, like Greenland, for this story on the global warming “gold rush”:
Of course, this is a pop-culture blog, so I would be remiss if I didn’t also give you a sample of Sarah Haskins’ hilarious feminist ad-critique series (which I first learned about from Aaron Barnhart) “Target: Women”:
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the imprisoned journalists. And in the meantime, if you haven’t watched Current in a while (or ever), check it out again.