A Maverick Media Mogul Takes on Mainstream Spinelessness
by Katrina vanden Heuvel
"I will tell you that there won't be any corporate considerations. No earnings per share issues, No worries about advertisers and what they might think." Okay, you probably think these are lines from a recent Nation editorial or Bill Moyers' latest speech.
It's actually Mark Cuban blogging about his negotiations with Dan Rather to launch a program on HDNet, his high-definition cable channel that reaches about 3 million homes. (Later this week, Rather will announce that he's joining Cuban's channel--launching "Dan Rather Presents" this October. ) Cuban also owns HDfilms production company.
At a time when CBS News is run by "by bean counters and profiteers with no interest in serious news," as Moyers recently put it, the billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball franchise seems ready to revive public interest journalism.
At a time when newspapers and traditional media seem clueless about their future, Cuban sees opportunity. In a recent post on his popular blog, Cuban lamented what he calls the loss of spine and guts in mainstream journalism. "Young people aren't turning away from mainstream media because they don't care about current events," he writes, "but because the media don't know how to connect with them."
(Cuban also likes to boast that HDNet News is working to hire "the young and the restless to go out and produce stories that matter. Stories that have payoff." )
Echoing any number of Nation editors/writers, Cuban adds, "Even for a 21-year old, it's not just about Paris Hilton, Bradgelina and the latest rap feud. Kids want to learn. They want to know. Journalism matters....We will produce news reports that matter to people of all ages."
I think he's one of the the most interesting media moguls around. What's appealing is that Cuban isn't just talking the talk. As Dan Rather might say, this guy "walks the walk"--putting his money into projects like "Sharesleuth," a new investigative website launched last month that will, as Cuban puts it, "do nothing but try to uncover corporate fraud." He's hired longtime business reporter, Christopher Carey, away from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to run the site--which will go live next month.
Last Spring, Alex Jones, Director of the Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on the Press wrote that "Traditional media of all kinds are retreating from the job of covering news on politics, policy and other topics because some consider them boring--the kiss of death. What might be alternative ways to keep accountability widely available?"
Mark Cuban may just be the alternative needed to shake up the traditional media world.
Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.