The Believers

Al Gore: Media Tycoon

MISSION // DEMOCRATIZE TV

AL GORE APPEARED TO BE ON LIFE SUPPORT after his failed 2000 presidential bid: He bounced between jobs teaching journalism and a few fiery speeches before vanishing from the public eye. Now the 57-year-old ex-veep is back, resurrected as the visionary and chairman of San Francisco–based Current TV, a four-month-old cable network that depends on viewer-created content for more than a quarter of its programming. "Current enables viewers to short-circuit the ivory tower and provide the news to each other," says David Neuman, president of programming. "It's revolutionary." Like an on-air blog, Current encourages aspiring Stacy Peraltas armed with digital camcorders and PowerMacs to shoot and edit short videos; then visitors to the network's Web site vote on what gets aired. Some, like "Jumper," a fast-paced homage to BASE jumping that mixes helmet-cam footage and interviews with an amped-up soundtrack, are cool; others are predictably awful. It's a bold idea for the notoriously unhip Gore, but Al (as he's known around the office, where he has been heard inquiring about the network's "street cred") has brought to Current more than an A-list name and access to deep pockets. "He wants to democratize television," says Neuman. And, in the process, he just may recast himself.

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