All posts by Eric Byler

Introducing The One Percent News Network

“Giving more money to people who already have a lot.”

Will-Rice-fist-pump-K-St-sm
Will Rice reports from K Street, the seat of political power in Washington DC. (Photo by Eric Byler)

If you strike just the right tone, stating the economic agenda of the 1% is actually kind of funny.

And that’s what most inspires me about the launch of The One Percent News Network — LightJab Productions’ satirical frame for exploring organizations and causes seeking economic and social justice. Media experts say that the ideological right will always have a lock on the emotions of fear and resentment, and, that the rest of America will always enjoy a similar monopoly on satire and humor. If this is true, then we should make it our goal to engage as many Americans as possible in the latter, while luring as many as possible away from the former. We’ve observed over the past 30 years how  hate-based political content can turn its consumers into reliable voters, activists, and opinion makers. The makers of humorous and satirical political content should do the same.

With the launch of The 1% News Network, Will Rice and I hope to do our part.

In our 1%NN videos, on the 1%NN Twitter feed, on the 1%NN Facebook page, and on the upcoming website, we plan to keep our game face on (which has already gotten us into trouble a few times). But here on this website, which represents the production company behind 1%NN, we will openly acknowledge our satirical approach. So, here’s how I see it….

Will and I are, as you might guess, inspired by the persona that Stephen Colbert perfected to enormous effect — nailing the pseudo-journalistic posturing of cable news hosts like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and their co-stars on Fox News. As we develop 1%NN, we plan to distinguish ourselves from The Colbert Report by building an ensemble cast around our “senior correspondent” Will Rice — the “experts,” the wall flowers, and token people of color we so often see on Fox — and by doing more reporting out in the field. Will and our future correspondents will also present a friendlier persona than Colbert’s — throwing fewer sharp elbows and more clueless questions, more baffled than mean.

Don Kusler, Executive Director for Americans for Democratic Action
Don Kusler, Executive Director for Americans for Democratic Action.  (Photo by Eric Byler)

The idea for The One Percent News Network was offered to us by Don Kusler, the executive director of Americans for Democratic Action, when we sought his advice on how best to use humor and satire to re-engage an American public that has come to see politics as impossibly corrupt. Less than a month later, we were in production, with Don and his ADA cohorts among the first “victims” of our investigative reporting.

Will prepares diligently for our production days, writing jokes and making props, for instance, while my preparation consists mainly of making sure all the batteries are charged.

I approached the filming of the ADA exposé without expectations. I knew that Will would be portraying an affable aristocrat, curious, but largely unfazed by the efforts of ordinary citizens to have impact on our plutocracy. I knew that our interview subjects would be doing their best to answer his zany questions without laughing or losing their temper, and somewhere in the chaos a story would emerge. I didn’t realize how much I would learn and come to admire about ADA’s organizers and leaders, both past and present.

On our first day of shooting, Will said, “I want to make fun of that walking-and-pretending-to-talk shot they always do in every single news magazine interview, which drives me crazy.” Laughing, I recalled dozens if not hundreds of cutaway shots from 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, and Dateline, and said, “Yeah, we have to do that.” After filming an interview in which Will made fun of the cramped office that ADA rents on K Street, we decided that the walk-through shot should include a bottleneck in the narrow hallway, which turned out to be a hilarious moment that we used in two of our ADA videos.

Mary von Euler, a leader with Americans for Democratic Action since 1947. (photo by Eric Byler)
Mary von Euler, a leader with Americans for Democratic action since 1947. (Photo by Eric Byler)

My favorite day of filming was the day we spent with Mary von Euler, who had a rich personal history to share, one that taught me a great deal about American history, and inspired me to do my own research about the historic figures she talked about with firsthand knowledge. Will was really on his game, both with his prepared questions and his improvisations.

I also enjoyed working with Will on the K Street standups (a standup is when a television reporter directly addresses the camera to narrate part of a story). For some strange reason we decided that Will needed to get hit by a bus, but that’s a story for another blog….