Monday, June 04, 2007

Charlie Rose - Promoting Discourse

I've recently become a fanatic of the fantastic Charlie Rose TV program.

On my PBS station, Charlie Rose is on from 11:30PM - 12:30AM, and often I'll wrap up my "planned" TV watching around then and then quickly flip through some channels before calling it a night. As a result, by accident, I wound up discovering the Charlie Rose program.

The format of the program is exceptionally basic. Charlie Rose sits on a stage with a totally black background and invites one or several people to sit with him at a table (which he calls "the table") and he interviews them.

The interviewed guests are always people of influence, but their areas of expertese range broadly. Thinking of guests off the top of my head, he's had on President Bush, Jimbo Wales, Lee Iacocca, Henry Kissinger, Quentin Tarantino, Warren Buffett, and Al Gore -- all in maybe the last 6 weeks.

The charm of the Charlie Rose program doesn't fully lie with the guest list though. It comes from the interview style of Charlie Rose. He asks good questions. The political guests he has you can usually find on the Sunday morning political shows, but there, even my favorite Sunday-show host, Chris Wallace, fails to ask questions like Charlie Rose does.

What makes the questions good is that they are questions that give the guest a chance to talk. The questions require a response that can't just be given using stale talking points. The guest has to go deeper -- explain what they mean -- fully lay out their opinion.

And Charlie Rose lets them talk. Bill O'Reilly tries to run what he deems a "no spin zone" by constantly cutting people off. Charlie Rose (refreshingly!) takes the opposite approach. If a guest were to answer using a bunch of spin, he'd let them, but then just follow up with a question that would force them to take their answer to a level of intelligent dialog.

The Charlie Rose program would also trust that you, the viewer, are smart enough to see through when people answer with spin. And, while I think Charlie Rose leans left (he seems to get more excited and ask questions that are a bit more friendly to left-leaning political guests), he does not seem to have any agenda other than asking intelligent questions of intelligent people and letting them respond.

Ahhh, at last, refreshing public discourse in today's public square (which, of course, is the television :-p)!

As an added bonus, the Charlie Rose program puts it's recent programs out on Google video. As a double extra bonus, I discovered CastCluster which lets you capture videos from YouTube and Google Video and put them into your own personal video podcast. And, if you've been paying attention, you can probably pretty easily figure out why having my own personal video podcast of Charlie Rose programs is compelling for me.

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