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Hollywood & Politics: Current TV's Newest Talk Star Gavin Newsom Says 90 Percent of Cable News Is About Blame

Issue 15 FEA Gavin Newsom Illustration - P 2012
Riccardo Vecchio

California's lieutenant governor and host of Current TV's upcoming "The Gavin Newsom Show" is looking to upend the medium (and social media) into a real tool for government, not just elections.

This story originally appeared in the May 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

I started as mayor of San Francisco with a small radio show. It was successful in allowing me to let the public in on the conversations I had with the fascinating people I came in contact with. Now as lieutenant governor, I often wish people could share those details. I thought, "What can I do along those same lines that can invite an even larger audience?" That's when the discussions with Current took place. It all started as a selfish desire to share.

It's also an opportunity to showcase the remarkable talent that exists across our state and country in a positive light, not from a pundit point of view, because I'm not a pundit, but from a practical point of view as a sitting elected official who can't talk exclusively about the ideal but has to translate the ideal into practical reality.

This isn't in place of doing my job. It's an "and," not an "or." The show in many ways is just an extension of what I'm already doing. I already have the opportunity to come into contact with many of the people who will participate, to learn from them, to listen to them, to explore new ideas. Now I am able to do that in a frankly more transparent way, in a much more public way.

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I'm writing a book that will be out early next year called Reboot America. It's about the intersection of technology and governance, not technology and politics. We saw how technology amplified voices in the last Obama campaign, and you're going to see it even more robustly in this campaign. But we then have a remarkable tendency to turn those voices off once we're in office. You're not getting daily e-mails and tweets from elected officials saying, "Let's engage in solving problems." It's engaging in the problem of getting elected or re-elected that we're good at but not solving the vexing problems of our day. We're not using that same technology to engage our constituents and improve our delivery systems.

I'm one of those old-fashioned guys who thinks the best politics is the better idea. So while this is a political show, it's not just sourcing ideas from politicians. This is about sourcing ideas and inspiration from across sectors, in the entertainment industry, the artistic community and from technologists. I think these fields are incredibly important to the economic future of our country. We will continue to explore what's working in the technology fields, but all these areas provide real opportunity for us to see things differently and to act differently in the political realm.

You've seen how technology democratizes voices in the private sector in remarkable ways. But I want to address that divide between what's happening around us in the private sector and what's not happening in government. I want to look at how we can use these tools of technology to change the lives of people, our cities, our state and our nation. This is also really in response to -- and an effort at reconciling -- the growing and rather alarming digital divide that exists in this country. Because of what's happening with smartphones and other tools of technology, the digital divide is increasing dramatically. The biggest impact is the poor can't afford these tools and don't have access to broadband.

We have a vending-machine model of government where you put in a dollar and you get limited choices -- police, fire, defense, health care. If you don't like what you get, you shake the machine -- that's the Occupy movement, that's the Tea Party. It's a framework of scarcity, and with this opportunity, maybe we can figure out what to do to fill in the blanks.

Social media will be part of it. We don't want this to just be a once-a-week show that's repeated twice other days. We can use these other venues (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to engage in a two-way conversation. My fundamental belief in life is one-way conversations are over in business and politics. You've got to have a two-way conversation. We're coming up with what I hope will be, in very innovative ways, the ability to reach a large audience and create an important feedback mechanism. Some of my friends in the technology world will come up with interesting, creative ways, and we will experiment with these.

I hope the viewers gain a different insight and perspective that moves past who's to blame, which is 90 percent of what we see on cable TV: "It's their fault. No, it's their fault." Frankly, I am getting a little bored with who is to blame. I want to focus on what to do and I think this provides a platform for focusing on ideas.

Before being elected California's 49th lieutenant governor, Newsom was San Francisco's youngest mayor in 100 years. In 2004, he gained nationwide attention when he directed the San Francisco City-County clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in violation of state law, and in 2010, he was named America's Most Social Mayor in a social media study.