CNN's Howard Kurtz talked to one of their former executives, David Bohrman about his move to Current TV to help Keith Olbermann and Al Gore turn the channel into a 24/7 news analysis, discussion television network. Bohrman explained their desire to give viewers a real alternative to Fox News and not what we've seen from CNN or MSNBC where it's fake balance for the sake of balance and some longer discussions than these five or ten minute debate boxes we're so used to seeing on all the networks.
I think it sounds pretty refreshing and am curious to see where they go with this and who else they hire next.
Transcript via CNN.
KURTZ: David Bohrman has been a fixture at CNN for more than a decade as Washington bureau chief and senior vice president. He's the guy who helped develop the Magic Wall and other technological gismos, and most famously during the 2008 campaign, the hologram. [...]
KURTZ: But soon after resigning from CNN, Bohrman was tapped this week as president of Current TV, the network whose biggest star by far is now Keith Olbermann.
What does this mean for the channel co-founded by Al Gore? David Bohrman joins me now here in the studio.
You know this studio well.
BOHRMAN: I do.
KURTZ: It's no secret that Current TV has had trouble getting traction in the ratings, at least until Olbermann was hired, although he's not putting up huge numbers either.
How are you going to change that?
BOHRMAN: Well, Current had their fifth anniversary, and they went through two or three identity crises over what they were as a network. It began as a user-generated content network, and in the last couple of years it's sort of been like a Nat Geo "Frontline" documentary network.
Al Gore and Joel Hyatt got the brilliant idea to go and try to hire Keith. They did, and discovered lightning.
I mean, the program did great, is being talked about. And all of a sudden, they realized that that was going to be the destiny of what the network is. And they're going to --
KURTZ: How do you build on that, is the question that you're hired to answer.
BOHRMAN: Right. And so they hired me to completely transform the network from a bunch of taped documentaries that have been cycling through the day, to a live news analysis, discussion television network that's going hopefully 24 hours a day, talking about the events of the day and finding other people with something to say like Keith.
KURTZ: But with Olbermann not only as the host of "Countdown," but the chief news officer of Current, is this going to be an all- liberal network?
BOHRMAN: I think it will provide a fair amount of time for liberal viewpoints to be made. It's not going to be exclusively liberal viewpoints, and we're going to try not to hide behind the word "progressive," that I think so many liberals do, and then the people on the right, the conservative world, scoff at.
I think there's a lot of time on radio and television and on the Web that actually is conservative points of view. There's not a lot of time for the left. And I think --
KURTZ: So, this is interesting. You see this as a balance to conservatives, particularly on talk radio, whereas conservatives often talk about the media as being so much tilted to the left, that they need an outlet like Fox News.
BOHRMAN: Well, in an odd way, I think what Roger Ailes started to do 15 years ago when he built Fox News, he wanted to barge into a media environment he saw as liberal. And remember, he talked about, "We report, you decide."
Well, I think they've -- Fox is now the mainstream. Fox tells a lot of people what to think. And I think that we want on one level to be a counterpart to that -- a counterpoint to that --
KURTZ: A counterpoint, yes.
BOHRMAN: -- and be able to provide time for intelligent, long sometimes, discussion of really important issues. The debt, for instance, in the last couple of weeks, it was dysfunctional in Washington and it was dysfunctional on cable news.
KURTZ: Let me ask you about the elephant in the room. A lot of people have asked me, well, does your taking this job suggest that you were a closet liberal during your years here at CNN?
BOHRMAN: Well, you know, it's -- I do feel like I crossed a line and have been somewhat -- and outed myself. All right? Overtly, I need to say that. I will tell you that --
KURTZ: But just to be clear, you outed yourself as somebody whose views lean to the left?
BOHRMAN: Yes. Yes. And that's what this network is going to be.
But I will tell you, in the hundreds if not thousands of hours of programming that I produced here at CNN and at NBC and at ABC, with Wolf Blitzer and John King and all of the others, I don't think any of us ever knew our politics. Wolf and I did everything in the '08 election. I have no idea how Wolf felt. I don't think he had any idea of my politics. I produced at NBC News the funeral for Richard Nixon. I produced here at CNN the funeral for Ronald Reagan. They were the most moving, respectful programs that you could find anywhere.
KURTZ: So you're saying you set aside your views to do your job.
BOHRMAN: I completely set aside my views to do my job, and I think I did that really successfully. I also think that the left needs to recapture patriotism and not let the right own the flag and own patriotism. You know, I still -- you still get a lump in your throat when you walk in the White House or in the Oval Office and are with the president of the United States, regardless whoever that person is.
KURTZ: We're running short on time.
Isn't there already a liberal commentary network, at least at night, MSNBC, where Olbermann worked? And do you see Current as taking viewers from MSNBC and perhaps from CNN, as well?
BOHRMAN: Well, I see us taking viewers from them both. I think MSNBC trots it out a little bit at night. I think most of the day, 20 hours a day, it's the NBC News network.
And the one trap even at night that I think we see at MSNBC, and I think we see here even at CNN, as well, there's almost this false equivalency where everything is a minute on this opinion and then a minute a counter-opinion. And by default, it's a lot like an old program we had here, "CROSSFIRE." There's too much yelling and shouting for the appearance of balance.
KURTZ: But do you think --
BOHRMAN: So I hope that we can have 10-or-15-minute discussions, and maybe there's a conservative thinker, but we probe and we have a long conversation.
KURTZ: As opposed to the "CROSSFIRE" style.
KURTZ: Well, we'll be watching.
David Bohrman, thanks very much for coming back to CNN.
BOHRMAN: Thank you.