The Media Project returns for a second season at 11 tonight on the Independent Film Channel. It's a media analysis show for the YouTube generation. • Former MTV face Gideon Yago offers a simple formula for how the show's topics are picked: "Learning what ticks off people on the staff and . . . (translating) it into an 'aha' moment about how the news gets made, that's fun," said Yago, who has won Emmy and Peabody awards for his work at CBS News and MTV News. "As you pull these layers back and you see how this Rube Goldberg machine works, you're astounded." • Yago offers comments on how he's helping viewers navigate what some call the Mis-information Age.
What's the biggest problem ailing news outlets these days?
At the end of the day, I think it's cynicism: this expectation that the American public is not savvy enough to write its own name in the dirt with a stick, so you have to provide them the most lobotomized pablum you can to keep their eyes on the screen and wrap it up in the sheep's clothing of journalism. I come from a generation of people so willing to embrace reality TV and nonfiction material in magazines and books, and yet the conventional news media has just resorted to populism and demagogy as a way of securing a base.
Your look at why almost no American cable outlets carry the Al Jazeera English news channel was prepared by somebody who used to work there, who admits their coverage can be unfair. Is this really an issue?
It's true, they're like the Arab version of Fox News . . . (and) I find a lot of their flagrant criticism of America taking the easy way out. But the notion that America, a country (created) by immigrants with different points of view, would have such a massive institutional resistance to nonmanaged points of view is astounding. It's effectively us being isolationist. The other parts of the world may be critical of what we're doing, but we're not going to listen to it.
Is there a danger in lumping together all media when talking about the excesses of a few, like cable TV news channels?
Well, news is supposed to be the first draft of history — but the first draft will always have some mistakes in it. We try to be specific in really aiming our criticisms where they deserve to lie. We all need journalism, as a regulation against the abuse of power, but not as infotainment. Someone's going to have to cut the signal from the noise. We just hope we can run interference and question (media outlets') motivation about what they put out there.