Eight years ago, almost to the week, I got a bizarre phone call from Roger Simon — the same Roger Simon who headed up the Pajamas Media blogger consortium he’d brought me into in 2005. Like me, Roger hates talking on the phone, so he got right to the point.
“We’re starting a video network, and we want you to be a part of it.”
I was flattered of course and so I immediately answered…
ASIDE: If you’ve heard this story, there’s a special message for Trifecta viewers in the second half of this column. So don’t touch that dial!
Anyway, I had to explain that I was always the guy on the other side of the camera, running around with a Nikon stuck to my face. The first and last time I’d been on the news was at a meeting of College Libertarians, and I looked like a washed-out, skinny-ass mess. TV was not for me, nor me for it.
But Roger persisted, even at the risk of making a long telephone call, and showed me the brand-new technology behind the fledgeling PJTV. Over a crappy-even-for-the-time broadband connection, I was manipulating a 3D virtual set, in real time, using nothing more complicated than a web browser.
So I might not have been a TV guy, but I love being on the bleeding edge of technology. Roger had intrigued me.
The plan was to do the big launch at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, but Roger said they had a video crew from Chicago going to tape the antics at the Democratic National Convention a week earlier — in Denver just north of me. Before I knew it, I’d agreed to meet up with the Founding Bloggers video team, and together we made the first-ever segments for this brand-new thing.
We were going to do what the major networks did, but with that blogger spirit — and at a tiny fraction of the cost.
It was a crazy experiment, making television without a network. It’s also been the time of my life.
But as you’ve probably heard by now, PJTV is shutting down. PJ Media isn’t going anywhere — I’ll keep doing what brought me into this business almost 15 years ago, sharing thoughts and quips and the occasional argument with readers who I’m proud to say must be as crazy as I am.
Bill Whittle, Scott Ott, and I tape our final Trifecta segments next week. As I sat down in front of the camera on Tuesday to tape this week’s segments, the shock of Monday’s conference call wore off and the news of it finally felt real.
I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t be talking every week with this fun crew out in Los Angeles.
I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t be working with Bill and Scott anymore.
TV deadlines could be a pain, the equipment could be fickle, and my basement studio could be sweltering hot in the summer, but I was really going to miss all this.
What was bleeding edge in 2008 is commonplace today. The professional-looking results, which once required a studio and a master control room, now can be done by almost anybody. The trail PJTV helped blaze is now a well-paved road, with conveniences and attractions on every block. So, yes, the time has come for management to put its capital to more productive use.
What was once revolutionary and expensive, is now easy and inexpensive enough for… well, for guys like me who had never dreamed of any kind of TV career.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Bill, Scott, and I are betting that networkless TV can be done by us, alone. We might have zero production experience in putting three men from three locations onto one screen in real time, but with today’s tools — and with our cumulative quarter century of experience in running our own prompters and studio lights — we can do it anyway. We really can. See, while I was bumming on the idea of not working with my Trifecta stalwarts any more, Bill was plotting how to make a new home for the show. That was Tuesday afternoon. By Wednesday evening, Scott had put together a working tech demo showing that we can indeed make it work.
Our hope is to get Trifecta, or whatever we end up calling the show, into its new home exactly one week after we shoot our final segments for PJTV. We’re working hard behind the scenes not to miss a beat. To make this work, financially as well as technically, we’re asking all our PJTV members to join us anew at BillWhittle.com. We’ll make sure your new membership is just as entertaining and informative as your old one.
PJTV has been a thrilling experience, an unexpected opportunity, and it has let me work with the best people. For that, I’m grateful, although of course I’m sorry to see it go. But the fact that we might be able to continue doing Trifecta without a huge capital investment is certain proof that this crazy experiment in TV-without-a-‘net worked — and worked beyond most anyone’s expectations.
What an adventure it’s been. The next adventure is just beginning.