Yes, that’s right, I’m coming out in support of raving nut case Glenn Beck’s foray into the big time Media-News-Network-o-Sphere. Beck, who Fox News deemed too extreme for it’s airwaves back in 2011, has been quietly building an online media empire that he is now turning (or relaunching) into ‘The Blaze’, a libertarian network that will be opening three foreign bureaus and a nightly news show. Beck launched a TV network called GBTV back in 2011, alongside an opinion site, a radio network and a monthly magazine, giving him several platforms to air his bonkers belief in communist conspiracies and Black Panther takeovers of government. Now he is bringing all his media properties together under one brand, Beck hopes to compete with the big boys. Reports BuzzFeed:
Beck introduced his ambitious plans by standing in front of a split screen with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on one side and Fox News’s Sean Hannity on the other, and bemoaning the fact that cable news has devolved into the “far left [and] far right… yelling at each other.”
“We’re not gonna play in that crazy space as a network,” he said, adding, “I consider myself a libertarian… I’m a lot closer to Penn Jillette than I am to Chuck Hagel.”
He said over the next 60 days, The Blaze will open three foreign bureaus in cities that are “important to America.” He will also relocate his New York staff from their current midtown offices into a building that will “send a very clear message to everyone in New York… it will piss everyone off.”
I’m not sure Beck is right that it will piss everyone off – he’s about as relevant to the mainstream news media as Lance Armstrong is to competitive cycling right now, but his unwavering belief in himself means he is willing to take risks in a the new media age that is desperately crying out for new and innovative models.
This self belief and willingness to go it alone is exactly what journalism needs in its current state, and I’m willing to put my neck out and give Beck a lot of credit for it.
There are very few profitable news entities online at the moment – the new ones are being built on massive amounts of debt, and the old ones are still scrambling to find ways of staying online while cutting jobs on a monthly basis.
Journalism is in trouble and without people trying different models, we face the prospect of a seriously weakened 4th estate. As content exploded online and people began to leave print in droves, the business faced the age old supply and demand nightmare scenario – too much supply and too little demand. Ad dollars are shifting irreversibly online and the future for publishers is looking distinctly brighter, but there isn’t enough of it to keep serious institutions sustainable. At least not yet.
No one in their right mind thinks Glenn Beck is good for the practice of journalism – he’s a cartoon show dressed up as a serious commentator, and his crying and ranting on air actively damages political discourse. Thankfully, no one takes him seriously, and his audience has been confined to an increasingly irrelevant demographic that wields less and less political power. Beck is targeting Libertarians in his refocused network in a bid to become more palatable to people with functioning brains, but mainstream America won’t be paying him much attention any time soon.
But what Beck may prove to be is good for the business of journalism. Opening three foreign bureaus, however silly they might be, is an extremely forward thinking move that puts other supposedly serious media entities to shame. US media institutions have been busy shutting down their foreign bureaus for decades, meaning Americans are insulated from the rest of the world in a time where it is of vital importance. Beck ‘s foreign bureaus aren’t going to be doing on the ground reports from the occupied territories in Palestine or exposing racism and poverty in South African townships, but he at least has the right idea.
Beck says he wants to invest in investigative journalism, correctly identifying the worrying fact that the highly skillful art has been in serious
decline in recent years. “We are currently looking for our own Woodwards and Bernsteins,” said Beck. “Maybe they don’t exist anymore, and if that’s the case I don’t really care. We’ll grow our own!”
I’m not sure I want to see the end result of a home grown, ‘Glenn Beck’ investigative reporter (I’m picturing Jeff Goldblum in ‘The Fly’), but you have to give it to Beck. He’s willing to invest in the next generation of reporters and build a real media institution that isn’t solely concerned with talking heads shouting at each other.
So yes, bravo Mr Beck, and good luck with your network however ridiculous it might be.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.