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day permlink Saturday, 30 March 2002

permlink The PBS NewsHour

While over the last few years many online media ventures have come and gone and many corporate websites have flourished and withered and finally 404'd, I must applaud the PBS Newshour for doing something that doesn't seem so remarkable except that very few others seem to be doing it: they post timely transcripts of every night's broadcast, in permanent locations with tolerably decipherable URLs, often accompanied by screenshots of the piece and either a video or audio stream of the segment (or sometimes both). And they've been doing it for years.

This is ideally what any serious news show should do with its online presence, but so few do (CNN does at least post 'rush transcripts', but that's all) and I can't think of any that do it as cleanly, consistently and well as the NewsHour. Usually within 24 hours of the broadcast, streams and transcripts are up for most of the segments of a show.

This essentially makes it possible to link directly to a specific TV news broadcast; something that remains unusual at this point in the net-media-hybrid-evolution. And the ability to link to a news broadcast from months or even years ago can be a very valuable thing, especially for research purposes.

All this to say, Thursday night they did a fine piece on the passing of Milton Berle, with commentary from Sid Caesar and Alan King.

In Memoriam: Milton Berle [PBS NewsHour]
Sid Caesar: ...what he did was to prove to the networks that you could do a new [TV] show every week with the same man ... the networks were very, very iffy because, you know, they knew how to do a radio show. A radio show, you just stood there and you read. But now, this thing... now you have to have costumes. You've got to have scenery. You've got to have makeup. You've got to have grips. You've got to have prop makers. ... It's a whole different animal, so they didn't know if they could do that every week, and Milton showed them that you could.

Alan King: Milton was never a very successful radio comedian. He was a totally visual animal. And if you remember -- or maybe you don't -- we had these little six-inch television sets, your receivers, you know? One with 40 neighbors watching, with grain, and used to put a magnifying glass on it to make it look bigger. The sound wasn't even good. Milton came out with these crazy costumes. He blacked out his teeth. You didn't have to pay attention. All you had to do was look.
What sets the NewsHour apart from other shows, IMO, isn't the interviews with special guests (which I honestly skip over most of the time; thanks TiVo!) but the summary reports that precede them, in this case a wonderful short reel by Spencer Michels on Berle's career. The transcript is nice, but it's no substitute for the video.

Their reporting staff is highly skilled at condensing an extraordinary amount of information into a clear, informative short film. I usually feel like I understand any given issue much better having seen one of their reports, and over time I've come to trust that they are including most of the information that I would want about a topic; they don't seem to be in the habit of leaving important things out.

Particularly satisfying to the political junkie in me is any report by Kwame Holman, who covers Congress. He quickly introduces major players, shows the key events of the day, gives historical context and explains the high points of whatever legislation is at issue. It doesn't sound very hard, but it's done on a daily news schedule and never fails to be clear, neither of which is an accomplishment to be sneezed at. When I think of how much information he has to know and how much input he has to sift through to craft his reports every day, I am in awe.

If you've never watched the NewsHour, or if you used to and stopped, do check out their website. You may find it to be a valuable addition to your stable of news sources. permlink     1 comment(s)  
Tonight we listened to Gwen Ifel change history again. She quoted John Kerry to say that Terrorism should be a nuisance and not the driving force in our lives. SHE CONVENIENTLY DID NOT PROVIDE THE CONTEXT FOR KERRY'S STATEMENT. He said "The goal is to make terrorism a nuisance." By omitting the appropriate context, IFEL simply encouraged her Bush-supporting guest to pick up this COMPLETELY FALSE idea and spout the lies of the Bush political campaign. THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSABLE REPORT.
      ...posted by Paul Matthews on October 18, 2004 6:33 PM
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