I’ve mostly resisted the siren call of viewer-created video content. (One of the most-watched files on YouTube this month was of a guy sledgehammering a PS3 in front of a Best Buy. Really, America? Really?)

And then Thursday night I went to the Seeds of Tolerance Awards in Los Angeles, co-sponsored by the Third Millennium Foundation and Current TV.

Current TV is Al Gore’s just-over-a-year-old cable channel, and a third of its programming is viewer-created content. Now, way back in 2005, everyone seemed to be talking about how crazy Al was for letting the public and its digital video cameras run amok on cable television. Then You-know-who-Tube exploded into pop culture in all its OK Go-breaking, PS3-smashing glory.

Who’s crazy now, suckas?

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Anyway, one of the points Al kept making at the awards presentation was how much potential viewer-created content has for spotlighting issues that are largely ignored by the mass media. And after watching the six documentaries in the semifinals (the competition was themed around tolerance), I started believing him. Topics ranged from homophobia in high schools to the children of Darfur to human-rights issues in the U.S. prison system. (The latter, entitled One Nation Under Guard, won the $100,000 grand prize.) There were no sleepy kittens or singing hippos in the lot.

So I started thinking: Can you imagine a world where cable news was run by Grist readers? Where instead of non-stop coverage of the murder of the moment or a presidential wannabe’s latest slip-up, we’d actually get to hear about topics that people really care about, like oh, say, the environment?

Bonus: We wouldn’t have to watch those goofy graphics on CNN anymore.

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