It’s no secret that media personality Glenn Beck is no stranger to reinvention. A while back, I wrote about his turn away from partisan politics and his own reputation as a conservative firebrand, and his attempts to bridge the left-right divide in the country by trying to find common ground with well-known figures on the left. I believed in what Glenn was doing, and still do–my only concern was that he partner with people who acted in good faith, not bomb-throwers like Samantha Bee who reverted to form as soon as it suited her.
It was a pretty big risk for Glenn, but hardly the first time he had taken a stand based on principle. His media company, the Blaze, has also suffered ratings losses over his refusal to support Donald Trump during the 2016 election, and finds itself in an uncertain position–one not unlike the conservative movement itself, which is struggling to find an identity somewhere between the rising tide of Trumpian populism and a feckless GOP that is great at talking about limited government but shows little interest in actually implementing it. How does a liberty-minded network serve its audience in an environment like that?
To most of the media, the answer has been to keep everyone moving from one outrage to the next, spinning opinion, innuendo and loosely-sourced facts into a noxious mix that doesn’t inform so much as incite. In this relationship, however, the roles are reversed: the audience actually serves the media, providing them with ratings and clicks as they await their next fix of information. Never mind that it’s fake news, often packaged by people who have a vested interest in deceiving the public. As long as it gets eyeballs, it’s all good.
To this, Glenn Beck is saying no more:
We begin tomorrow a new experiment. To prove to the media and to ourselves that you can be profitable and tell the truth…
If those of us on the right don’t stop our infighting and figure this out we will fall one by one and google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple will be the portal of all information.
We will not waste your time or our resources one more second on things you can get everywhere else. The Blaze has done too much of it.
Glenn goes on to note that the Blaze will be refocusing its energies on what is working and divert them away from what is not, starting with a refocus on one of its greatest strengths–its radio presence. But there will also be a pivot in the way that it reports the news:
On September 11, the Blaze news team spends a solid week with me working on a completely different approach to news which we will begin to roll out as MVP, Sept 18.
The world dismisses us and most believe it is too late or will not work. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps you must run click bait, misleading headlines and say outrageous things to be successful.
If this is true, I will shut it all down and find some other way to make a positive impact. Even if it is just to teach my children…
I am not promising anything to you. I cannot promise success, or that we will change the world. I have failed at that too many times.
All I promise to you is what I promise myself and family. That we will give our best work to figure out a way to make sense of the news, expose the lies on all sides, teach our children true history including the worst and then the best of American history and most importantly, do our utmost to help find a way back to each other and the things that made our nation the light of the world in the first place.
I can’t help but think this sounds a lot like the mission statement that Jerry Maguire wrote, after he had the revelation that almost everything he had been doing in his business life was wrong. Of course, in the movie Jerry ended up taking a big hit–much like the Blaze itself, with the layoffs of 20% of its workforce–but in the end, he had to lose in order to win later. I hope this is the case with Glenn’s venture.
As to what that new approach with news might be, the standard seems pretty simple: just tell the truth. How exactly that will be carried out, though, remains a tantalizing mystery. Glenn has promised to hire “creative disrupters” to carry out his vision, but beyond that we don’t have many clues.
For what it’s worth, I do have one suggestion. Perhaps the greatest shortcoming in the news business has been its retreat not only from the rest of America, but also the world. Newspapers can no longer afford to maintain foreign bureaus, and the big operations based out of New York and Washington rarely get out of their bubbles. As a result, so much of what the average news consumer sees is actually produced by third parties such as corporate interests and political action committees, with very little effort put into finding out if any of the claims are even true.
But what if the Blaze could harness the power of people who aren’t professional reporters, but who know how to tell stories? Citizen jouralism has already proved itself to be a potent force in the blogosphere–so why couldn’t that particular model also work for network news? In a world where everyone has a high-definition video camera in their pockets, literally anyone could be a reporter with just a little training. All they would need beyond that is strong editorial guidance, which the Blaze could provide. In short order, they could have a footprint across the country that would rival any network. More that that, they’d have a perspective that nearly all of its competitors lack.
Like I said, it’s just a suggestion–but with just a little imagination, perhaps the Blaze can change the paradigm.
Here’s hoping that they succeed.