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Thoughts on Vanguard

Let me first say that there is no one out there pulling for Current TV as hard as I am. I understand the business logic behind the changes to the Vanguard show and I want Current TV to be successful as a business. (Let me also note that so far Current says Vanguard will continue to be produced, just by freelancers.)

This is not about decision-making at Current TV. This is about the state of our news industry, and a little bit about me being wistful and idealistic.

Vanguard is an amazing show. If you’ve never seen an episode, you should track it down. Engaging, important documentary journalism, albeit hard to find on your cable dial. Vanguard does something rare on TV: add new information to the conversation. As they often phrased it, they shined a light into the dark places.

I like that idea of Vanguard as a source of illumination. Particularly while most of cable television news does not provide new light sources- it reflects back those little lights like a riot of mirrors. I hear this accusation leveled against blogs all the time – they’re just building off of other people’s coverage. TV news commentary is the same: a competition to put the best spin on the day’s news.

But when you bounce light endlessly between mirrors, it degenerates, it begins to lose its power. And when you start extinguishing the sources, there is less and less illumination happening at all.

Current made its decisions because our broadcast marketplace values entertaining commentary higher than expensive original reporting. I don’t begrudge them the choice, I know it must have been difficult. But I do mourn the slowly-dimming luster of our world of journalism.

All of my best to everyone at Vanguard, may you continue to shine your lights elsewhere.

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