The Young Turks (TYT), the first nationwide liberal talk show and first live, daily internet TV show, is a funny, smart, irreverent and entertaining look at politics, sex, news, pop culture, current affairs and personal stories.
Cenk Uygur, the main host of the liberal talk show is Turkish and I had a chance to meet him and talk about his amazing show…
Here is my questions and his answers:
Could you tell us about yourself and your family?
I was born in Istanbul, Turkey. We moved to East Brunswick, New Jersey when I was eight years old. My parents are both from Kilis originally. I have an older sister who now lives in Turkey with her family and with my wonderful two nephews.
As an eight years old child what was your first opinion about America?
I couldn’t believe all of the grass. Our elementary school had a soccer field, basketball court and two baseball fields. When I was in Istanbul, my best friend and I would play soccer in the parking lot of our apartment building. So, to see all of that grass where you could play any sports you wanted to was a wonderland for a kid my age.
I really missed my friends and my extended family when we first came to America, but eventually I got used to it. I have to confess, once America gets in your blood, it’s hard to get it out. It’s a lovely country.
I went to Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate. I loved Penn, but I learned close to nothing about business. It turns out the most important part of business school is the connections. I wish someone had told me that earlier. But later one of my classmates wound up becoming a United States Congressmen and another is one of the top directors of Google. So, I guess I got something out of the school.
If you thought you didn’t learn much in business school, you should see how little you learn in law school. I went to Columbia Law School, which I loved because it was mainly political debating and playing basketball. But working as a lawyer is totally different. It’s very boring, you never handle policy issues and it turns out, there’s no basketball! So, I dropped out of the legal profession after graduating and became a talk show host.
How long have you been in communication business?
Over 12 years. I started out on radio stations in Washington, DC and Boston, MA. Then I worked in television in Miami. I became a television writer briefly in Los Angeles. Then I moved back to radio where we started The Young Turks. We were the first original talk show for Sirius Satellite Radio. We moved over to Air America and XM Satellite Radio in 2006. We also started the first ever live, daily internet television show at the end of 2005. In the last year, we have had over 23 million viewers on You Tube. We also have contracts with AOL and many other web partners.
What is the story behind choosing “The Young Turks” name for your political show?
Young Turks in English means young progressives looking to overthrow the established system. That’s exactly what we were when we first started. Bush was in charge and screwing up the world – and we had to change that. Plus, when we started I was Turkish and young. I’m still Turkish.
Could we tell “The Young Turks” is the new wave of citizen journalism on the Internet?
I wouldn’t call us journalists because we give our opinions. I think journalists do an important job of presenting us with the facts. Some organizations like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. purposely try to blur the line between opinion and journalism so that they can replace the facts with their propaganda. We, on the other hand, are very upfront about what we do. We analyze the news. But are we the next generation of talk shows? Absolutely.
What makes your show different and special? What is the difference with other political shows?
We are energetic, passionate and fun. A lot of other talk shows are so dry and think it’s their job to calmly state the news. No, it’s your job to get excited about the news and deliver it with passion. Secondly, we are irreverent and don’t follow the traditional news model where they talk down to you. We know who our audience is and we connect with them and talk to them as if they are our friends and we are sharing some important news with them.
What is behind on this success?
What I stated above. People see our passion, they trust that we are being honest with them and they come to view us as their knowledgeable friends. The best compliment I ever received from a listener was that he felt that when he turned on our show he sensed he was talking with his friends at a bar about the day’s news, except his friends were really smart and had read everything. I don’t know about the smart part, but it was very nice to get that reaction. That‘s what we’re going for and I think that’s what has made us successful.
What is your typical day like?
Busy. I work from the moment I get up to the moment I go to sleep. It’s a good thing I love my job, otherwise it would be impossible. I have to read all of the news from the different fields, organize and produce the show, host the show, write editorial articles, do television appearances and other interviews, and run the business. It’s exhausting. You can’t do this line of work unless you’re ready to give it a 100%. But it’s a big competition to me and I plan on winning.
What do you like the most about your job?
I love learning the news. I love sharing it. I love making a difference. And then every once in awhile someone recognizes you in the street or writes you a very nice message and of course that feels great. So many people do their jobs so well, but never get a compliment. But in our job people always compliment us. That’s special and I always appreciate it. But I would do this job even if I got no reaction from the audience because it’s what I love to do. I couldn’t stop if I tried.
Could you talk a little bit about what is the mood right now at the political area?
People can’t stand Bush anymore. They desperately want change, but it amazes me that they can’t see the same people who backed Bush are behind John McCain. How could they not see that they would get the same thing if McCain won? I hope that doesn’t happen, but right now it looks good. Obama has an excellent chance of winning.
What do you think about Obama?
I think he is an excellent politician, which is not exactly a compliment. But the Democrats need a good politician who knows how to win elections. He reminds me of Bill Clinton a lot. And if he wound up being a president like Bill Clinton, then we would be very lucky (and I voted against Clinton twice – total mistake). There is also a good chance that he will bring about some change. It won’t happen overnight and he will disappoint some with how cautious he is. But he has a chance to make America great again. Also, he is very smart – probably one of the smartest people in the country — and we can really use a smart president right about now.
I voted for McCain in 2000 when he was running against Bush in the Republican primaries. I really believed in him then. But it turns out he is a classic politician. He will say anything and everything to get elected. He has now kissed up to all of the people he once fought against within the Republican Party. He has embraced the crazy Christian Right, the Republican businessmen fund-raisers who all make a lot of money off the government and the most strident pro-war factions. He has become what he despised.
He even voted for torture recently. It’s really sad to say, but I have lost all respect for him. It would be a disaster for America and for the world if he won.
Are you able to follow the recent political issues in Turkey?
What are your goals for TYT in the future?
To rule the world. Well, at least the media world. I want the show to be on television, radio and the internet at the same time and be dominant in all of those formats. That sounds really hard but we are already halfway there. Once you get your foot in the door you’ve done most of the work – and we have our foot in the door.
Is there anything else you would like to add to conclude this interview?
Yes, we need everyone in Turkey to come to our website www.theyoungturks.com and to our You Tube channel so that we can get even bigger. The more people who come to your site and the more viewers you have on You Tube, the more power you have in the American media. That will help us a great deal in getting to the top of the American media. Thanks.