Jersey Shore, As Narrated by Oprah = Genius

Current’s Infomania hit upon a winning combination last night: What if Oprah Winfrey (who’s the narrator of the Discovery Channel’s (s DISCA) maybe-sorta-ripoff-of-the-BBC’s-Earth series Life) took that same nature documentary approach to another nonfiction series that delved into a strange and previously unexplored culture: MTV’s (s VIAB)  Jersey Shore. The result is this:

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Current TV Cancels Some Shows, Lays Off 80

Nov. 11 is not a good date for Current TV employees. For the second year in a row, the network/web site hybrid Al Gore built has announced layoffs on that day in the double digits. But while last year, the eliminated jobs were attributed to “a new cross-platform programming strategy,” the bulk of today’s 80 lost jobs are directly tied to the cancellation of Current Tonight, Current Takeover and Current Exposed.
The canceled shows were part of a change in strategy for Current following the hiring of new CEO Mark Rosenthal, according to COO Joanna Drake Earl. “We had a chance to step back to see what’s working and what’s not,” she said via phone, “which led to the decision to move away from an over-reliance on short-form content.”
The layoffs will allow the company to reinvest in programming, marketing and affiliate sales hiring, areas where Earl admitted Current is looking for “more experienced leadership,” as well as invest more in longer-form shows like Infomania and The Rotten Tomatoes Show, both of which she described as successes.
When it comes to finding ways to make the web and TV play nice together, Current has always been an innovator, whether being one of the first to incorporate Twitter updates on news broadcasts or what Earl described as Rotten Tomatoes‘ “low-bar audience participation format.” We’ll just have to see if the next reorganization comes on Nov. 11, 2010.

Current Replaces CEO With MTV and Ad Industry Vet

Multiplatform video company Current Media said today that Mark Rosenthal, the former president and COO of MTV Networks and CEO of Interpublic Media, will replace co-founder Joel Hyatt as CEO.

RosenthalRosenthal had been a Current board member since the inception of the company. Hyatt will now serve as vice chairman.

Rosenthal had most recently been vice chairman and president of media platforms at the troubled ad startup Spot Runner, which he joined a little over a year ago from Interpublic.

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North Korea Sentences Current TV Journalists to 12 Years of Labor

Terrible news. The two Current TV journalists arrested for trespassing in North Korea have been found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in labor camp. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested March 17 by North Korean guards; they were working on a story about refugees on the China border and it’s not clear if they actually crossed the border themselves.

The conviction cannot be appealed through the North Korean court system as Ling and Lee were tried in the country’s highest court. Analysts had previously said a worst-case scenario would be that the women would be sentenced to 10 years in labor camps.

The Al Gore-founded Current has not commented publicly on any aspect of the situation, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she was “incredibly concerned” but did not want to interfere while the trial was ongoing. One analyst told the Associated Press that he expected Pyongyang will release the two if the U.S. reciprocates by sending an envoy to North Korea, which is currently fraying international relations by engaging in nuclear tests. More background and links here.

Current TV Journalists on Trial Today

Two American journalists for Current TV, the cable/web network, were scheduled to go on trial in North Korea today. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were on a reporting assignment about North Korean refugees in China when they were detained March 17. Though it’s not clear if they entered North Korea, they were arrested for illegal entry and “hostile” acts and could face years of labor camps if convicted.

Vigils for the two were held around the country last night and thousands are expressing their support on Facebook. Laura Ling’s sister Lisa, a prominent TV journalist herself, has appeared all over the media this week saying the only way her sister may be released is if the U.S. government and the North Korean government talk. Analysts say Ling and Lee are being used as “bargaining chips” for North Korea to engage in dialogue about its nuclear program with the U.S.

San Francisco-based Current itself has not commented Ling and Lee’s arrest and trial, and seems to be deleting related coverage on its own site. We asked the company for comment on the recent developments and it declined again. It’s exactly the kind of topic the network would normally cover, so many speculate the company feels — or has been advised that — speaking out could only hurt the two journalists’ prospects.