Go Big or Go Home - Part I

Author
Alan F
Touch

On March 22, 2006, I caught an interview with Paul Jay, the chair of IWT, on the Stephanie Miller radio show. That night, I visited the IWT website and asked why they'd been quiet for so long. I received a personal e-mail from Paul, asking me to sign up for their mailing list and telling me to watch for the new business plan they'd be posting in the coming week. Once I saw it, I wrote back with a few questions and offered to do an interview. Paul eventually responded to the questions but somehow neglected to mention the interview offer, though he said rather cryptically "Help on the blogs would be appreciated."

In late August came the announcement that IWT and its flagship news show, "The Real News," was "entering an exciting new phase" and conducting a "world-wide talent search" for hosts. Encouraged, and figuring that perhaps my original offer had gotten lost in the shuffle, I wrote another e-mail offering to interview Paul. I was excited to receive a positive reply from his assistant: "Paul would very much like to set this interview up." Not only was I thrilled to have my offer accepted, I was glad that there was at least one other member of the crew to handle communication with The Public. We set up the interview for mid-September.

The call was very energizing. Paul is persuasive, as you will see, and assuaged many of my fears about IWT/TRN. He did want me to hold off posting the interview, though, until they had a better infrastructure for dealing with mass interest, inquiries, and subscriptions. They had been swamped by our enthusiasm in 2005, when they didn't have enough staff to handle the unexpected flood of communication, so they didn't want to go public prematurely. New infrastructure, including a redesigned web interface, is now in place. So without further ado, I will present you with first few paragraphs of the interview. I'll be bringing the rest to you as a series.

And here we go!

AF: A lot of people would like to see you on the air yesterday, if not sooner. But your current timetable suggests that you won't be launching until late 2007. Could you give us an idea of how things are going and why the process might take so long?

PJ: We've been trying to balance two things: how you prepare the conditions so that you can come out with enough substance and big enough to make a difference, and how you sustain it. Even if we raise enough money to get started with the daily world news show and get it out for a month or two, the worst thing would be to start something big and then three months later go black. So from the very beginning, our internal slogan was "Go big or go home." We need to be a real source of world news, a place for front-line breaking news reporting and analysis and debate. And that's expensive. We want to compete with CNN, even if it's a ten or fifteen-year arc to get there. We're fundamentally about being able to speak to a mass audience. We're not trying to be another source that supplements the kind of information sources that already exist for very politicized people. If you're very political and you're at all web-savvy, there are actually a lot of places you can go to get information right now. In the final analysis, that's not our target audience. Of course we want those people to be with us, and we're very much going to depend on them for financial support, for spreading the word, for helping us get angles on stories, and even for citizen journalism. But we want to get to that thirty, forty, or fifty million who know there's something wrong, who know the television news they're getting is bad, who know the country is headed in a very dangerous direction -- not just the country, the world. In the U.S. there are at least forty or fifty million people out there who do not believe Saddam was connected to 9/11, who don't think that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. If you look at the polls, 40% or 50% of the country is quite clear on the issues. We want to be big enough to make an impact.

If you read our business plan, we talk about the rollout of sample content. We are going to start a weekly show by January. You're the first to hear it: it's called "The Real News Beta." We're going to let people in on where we are in our development, to give people a taste of what's coming. We're going to take the big story of the week, take clips of how other news shows have covered that story. If the show was the war in Lebanon, for example, we'd show how CNN covered it, ABC, Fox, but we'd also show how BBC, CBC [Canadian Broadcast Corporation], Al-Jazeera covered it. then go to a journalist in the field and ask the journalist how they think television is covering the story, and what is the real story. We will be starting a regular short newscast.