TeaPartyHD fills in gaps that mainstream media might ignore

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 2011; 10:17 AM

The reason Michele Bachmann's State of the Union response was disorienting (Ignore the charts. Ignore the Iwo Jima photographs.) was because it seemed like if you were in the right place in your living room - try scooching to the left - she might look at you. But you could never find that place, and so the entire speech seemed to be directed to unseen parties standing just outside your window.

Tony Loiacono can explain.

The problem? There were multiple cameras in the room, he says, and the congresswoman, a Minnesota Republican, was looking into the TeaPartyHD camera with the teleprompter. The networks provided their own cameras instead of plugging into his, which made her glance look askew.

On Friday afternoon, the world will be able to see Bachmann as intended, straight-on.

"TeaPartyHD will be airing the original footage from Representative Bachmann's speech to the State of the Union," Loiacono says, sounding official. And then, as an afterthought, "at 12 o'clock, Pacific time."

Loiacono, 55, is the man who directed and produced Bachmann's famous response video. He is proud of the work that went into the video: "She looks beautiful, the set is pretty. . . . We put her through hair and makeup."

Loiacono - a seasoned San Diego producer - will show the world the original footage because he is determined that all of the content produced through TeaPartyHD.com be of the highest quality. How else can it become a go-to media outlet for a group partly defined by its distrust of the media?

'News that affects liberties'

On Thursday morning, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) addressed a packed hearing room in the Senate's Hart building. It was the first Senate Tea Party Caucus. The lawmakers were there to talk about deficits and spending, and how they were going to get rid of both. Many audience members wore suits and blizzard attire, scattered people wore the buttons and Palin flair seen at tea party rallies.

Loiacono wore a light-colored blazer with a three-point handkerchief in his breast pocket, a black polo shirt, dark pants, and tan, healthy-looking skin. Throughout the morning, he bustled in and out of the hearing room, checking sound, consulting with his cameramen. "I'm the big Italian-looking guy," is the way he described himself on the phone the night before. He has blinding teeth.

Still in Washington after Bachmann's speech, Loiacono had come to this caucus to videotape it for TeaPartyHD, the media outlet he founded in 2010. Its mission, according to the Web site, is "to report the news that affects your liberties right where you live, work and play."

TPHD's launch was a multi-part interview with Ann Coulter. Now it films events Loiacono thinks the mainstream media will ignore, and offers a variety of original programming: In "Constitution 101," two broodingly attractive guys educate viewers on the meaning of words such as "preamble" and "ratify." In "Politics 101," a pretty reporter asks passersby to determine whether outlandish government spending is real or fake. A daily cartoon, "Teachable Moments" - co-produced by the Black Sphere - pairs real audio footage with animation and commentary. "Bill is short for billionaire," a disgusted voiceover intones as a cartoon Bill Gates lets a grandmother die in a hospital bed.

For now, the content is all online-only, or, like Bachmann's speech, fed to news networks. Someday, Loiacono says, he might try to turn TPHD into its own television channel, but he's not overly preoccupied with that. "We're trying to bring in the younger audience," he says, the kind that gets its news online. The Internet is the perfect medium for a grass-roots movement, for an audience that wants its news unfiltered and homemade. He's also less concerned about traffic to the site - he doesn't provide numbers - saying that his goal is not so much to bring people to his site but to "push [the content] out there."

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