A new book, One City by Ethan Nichtern, sits on the stand beside my bed. Nichtern describes the global interdependence of humanity which he calls “the real internet.”
Each day, without much care or attention, I interact with, and rely on, people from across the world, past and present. From my “alarm clock made in the Phillipines” to my “socks from China” which arrived “thanks to the archaic energy of petroleum” to the shower water that “has pulsed through an intricate web of ducts and unseen pipes that some forgotten engineers constructed decades ago.”
I would not have been stimulated by this eloquent articulation were it not for a web of influences and relationships that lead to my interest in democratized television and, in turn, my introduction to The Alcove with Mark Molaro.
The Alcove is an anomaly in the age of hyperactive consumption of media on the internet ###and, yet, it speaks directly to the promise of the open medium. It’s one of the only active forums for long-form, in-depth conversation on cultural issues on the internet, and it’s done with an integrity and intellectual curiosity that pays homage to a long tradition of journalism. It’s a program that can speak to its core constituency without the concern for sensationalism to drive ratings that has come to dominate broadcast journalism.
Molaro, who has been called “The Charlie Rose of the internet” by Paul Levinson, the Chair of Communications and Media Studies of Fordham University in New York, has interviewed thinkers and media-creators from Aronson-Rath and Arun Rath of the PBS Frontline series “News War,” to Naomi Woolf renowned author of The Beauty Myth, to Wallstrip’s (Tilzy.TV Page) Lindsay Campbell.
“My objectives with the program and with the guests we invite is to do the most in-depth and authentic interview with them at that particular time – what I hope will amount in some way to an ‘interview of record’. I am looking guests from all political, social and economic backgrounds,” Molaro wrote in an email. “I see [it] as being an ‘alcove’ in the true sense of that word – a place away from most media – one that takes its time with its guests and seeks authenticity, intimacy and depth with our guests. The key for our guests is that they have something to say and a passion for saying it.”
Molaro credits Bill Moyers and Charlie Rose as major influences, and The Alcove has certainly taken much from the profundity of these television giants by creating an atmosphere for open dialogue, but he could stand to learn more from his forerunners.
In terms of style and presentation, Molaro has a lot of room to grow. He lacks the spontaneity of Rose, the earnest concern of Moyers or the bullishness of Russert. His posture is just a little too stiff, his questions just a little too planned…often too prefaced. He lacks the audacity to occasionally interrupt to clarify a point or to question a presumption. He needs to relax, to interact, to let his genuine personality shine through in sincere conversation. I see that authenticity lurking beneath the surface of an intuitive interviewer who’s not yet fully found his on-screen voice.
Critiques notwithstanding, this is one of the smartest, most though-provoking television shows period; I’m constantly inspired by the challenging insights of his roster of esteemed guests.
Molaro, formerly a documentary filmmaker, created The Alcove when he realized that his favorite aspect of filmmaking was “interviewing.” “I found that my guests could see my interest in them and their work, and they opened up.”
Molaro sees The Alcove “blend[ing] into the changing waters of TV…quite seamlessly. We’re taking our time to be smart and cautious so as to grow in a realistic and organic way.”
I’m personally looking forward to “many, many more interviews in 2008.”