“This is an opportunity to really reflect on where we are and where we are going,” he says of “The Van Jones Show,” which will debut Saturday, January 27, at 7 p.m. on CNN, taped before a live audience. “We will have cultural icons and political leaders on the one hand, but we will also be going out into the country, talking to ordinary people.” Jones intends to use social media, live-crowd interaction and taped segments of visits with people across America to analyze the trends shaping the 2018 and 2020 elections.
But yes, the show will have some glitter, too. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter will appear on Jones’ opening effort, ready to talk about activism and some of the themes behind his recent album, “4:44.” The album “is a real social justice classic, and I want to talk to him about that,” says Jones, as well as topics like economics and race. The two know each other through Roc Nation, Carter’s entertainment company, which counts Jones as a client. “I didn’t have to Google to find the phone number,” Jones jokes.
“The Van Jones Show,” which will play opposite “Fox News Report” on Fox News Channel and a rerun of one of MSNBC’s primetime shows, marks CNN’s latest push in a slow-but-steady effort behind the activist and former Obama administration policy adviser. Jones has been with CNN through a failed revival of “Crossfire” and a recent series of town hall programs presented under the rubric “The Messy Truth.” In the fourth quarter, he expects to launch another series on CNN: “The Redemption Project,” centered on criminal justice.
Jones thinks people in New York, Los Angeles and other urban areas need to listen more to their counterparts in parts fo the U.S. that aren’t so metropolitan. “We are still in the middle of a big populist moment and, increasingly, I want for the voice of ordinary people to be heard,” he says. “Mainstream media keeps being shocked by these movements: The Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter or MeToo, but some of these currents are already a bit more obvious in the heartland.”
The show has room for a famous guest or too, he notes. “It used to be that politics were solely for us news nerds. That’s no longer the case,” says Jones. “Everything and everybody is now involved in politics in some way. Sports figures, musicians, actors are 100% engaged. It used to be you’d watch late-night TV and it was all very bland humor about the most recent movie and now it’s all about politics. Politics has taken over everything and everything has taken over politics – and the show will reflect that.”
“The Van Jones Show” will appear twice each month, a bid to make the program less reliant on breaking headlines, and more focused on making sense of them. “People can get the content of news from their phones all day, but the context is harder,” says Jones. “We have an overabundance of data and a real deficit of wisdom in making sense of it.”