Count New Age author Deepak Chopra’s son among “the founding team” recruiting several dozen “digital correspondents” for former Vice President Al Gore’s upcoming cable network.
Gore and his fledgling media company, INdTV, have been keeping mum on plans for next year’s relaunch of Newsworld International, which they bought earlier this year for an estimated $70 million from Vivendi Universal Entertainment. Gore wants to rebrand NWI as an “innovative” network targeting young adults.
But there’s enough information out there — fittingly, much on the Internet — to indicate their team is moving ahead in staffing the programming service, to be based in San Francisco with some ad-sales and production offices in New York.
NWI’s programming is now provided by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., and the network has affiliate deals with key distributors DirecTV Inc., Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. Those deals have been described as firm, even with the upcoming change in format.
NWI had 17 million subscribers at the time of Gore’s National Show press conference in New Orleans in May. INdTV is forecasting 20 million subscribers when it relaunches.
Last week, Gore’s partner, Democratic fundraiser and entrepreneur Joel Hyatt, again declined to comment on INdTV’s plans and status.
But among those INdTV has brought on board are Gotham Chopra, the son of the famed best-selling self-help writer. He’s helping to round up the 50 video journalists, or “digital correspondents,” the network says it’s hiring.
INdTV also has San Francisco Bay Democratic activist Jamie Daves on board and has retained consultant Michael Rosenblum to conduct four-week training boot camps for the “DCs.”
Rosenblum, credited with coining the phrase “video journalist,” has also trained VJs for New York 1 News, Oxygen and the British Broadcasting Corp.
Video journalism entails TV correspondents shooting and editing their own video.
On its Web site (www.indtv.net), INdTV says DCs “will think, write, shoot, edit and potentially appear on air.”
Applications for DC slots were due last Friday (Oct. 15) and INdTV officials have held recruiting sessions across the country, including on college campuses in Florida, Michigan, New York and Washington, D.C., in September.
INdTV will start reviewing applications this week, then set up interviews and select its first group of DCs in November.
Gotham Chopra, himself an author and former correspondent for the in-school service Channel One Network, has a video clip and a video blog — a “recruiting vlog” — on the site. He describes himself as part of INdTV’s founding team, and talks about recruiting DCs, as well as his passion for the Boston Red Sox.
Rosenblum also has a video clip on the site, showing him at a video-journalist boot camp for the BBC in London explaining the training process.
New York 1 general manager Steve Paulus brought in Rosenblum to train the 24-hour local news channel’s reporters to carry cameras and shoot their own stories when the Time Warner Cable-owned service debuted in 1992.
“Michael was at the vanguard of the journalist as a photographer, the whole concept of video journalism,” Paulus said. Rosenblum “came in and we conducted a boot camp for all of our VJs, our reporters.
“He basically taught them how to shoot a camera, how to do interviews, how to make cutaway shots … he’s one of these guys who’s really a zealot when it comes to the video-journalism thing. He doesn’t even believe in stand-ups.”
The prospect of working for Gore’s channel has been of intense interest to former employees at TechTV, the San Francisco-based cable channel that was sold to Comcast Corp. (and merged with video-game network G4) earlier this year. In August, INdTV held a meeting at the Bambuddha Lounge in San Francisco that attracted a lot of former TechTV employees.
Cathy Brooks, a former booking director at TechTV and a friend of Daves’s, went to the session to hear more about INdTV and to see former colleagues.
“I walked in and there were like 60 people from TechTV,” she said.
Brooks, who’s worked for public-relations firm Porter Novelli for the past year and a half, said she wasn’t sure if any former colleague had been hired as a DC. But INdTV was smart to tap that resource, she said.
“What they have now is a ready pool of résumés and contacts of some highly talented people who know how to operate on a shoestring budget. These are people who have launched a network, so they know how to do it with nothing.”
INdTV has also spawned an unofficial forum on Geekrolling.com, where many would-be DCs are discussing the service.
In his blog on the official Web site, Chopra claims INdTV has not hired a programming chief yet.
In fact, INdTV is telling job applicants the DCs will play a huge part in determining what the network is.
“This is not top-down traditional TV,” Chopra wrote in his blog. “We’re not looking for a programming head who will dictate all the creativity of the network.”
FROM WEB SITE
INdTV’s Web site repeats Gore and Hyatt’s earlier declarations that this won’t be a political channel.
Programming will feature “compelling, real-life stories created by and for young adults” and offer “a broad spectrum of programs from magazine to documentaries to reality to comedy and satire.”
The Web site described the ideal DC as “an excellent storyteller who understands the interests and life experiences of our 18-34 year old audience and who is passionate, smart and a self-starter.”
The site also said INdTV chairman Gore “is actively involved in driving the strategy and managing the business.”
Kent Gibbons contributed to this story.