Hopes of viewers and producers invested in Need to Know

Ten weeks before the air date of Need to Know, WNET announced the executive producer. Seven weeks before, the producing station named the co-anchors. On May 7 the new public affairs series debuts on PBS. A lot will be riding on the show. For PBS it’s a rare chance to start a potential “icon series” with new styles and substance, demonstrating that folks in “legacy media” can interact and innovate like digital natives.

Worldcasts: Long-overdue broadening of news horizons

Anyone who watched, say, the ABC World News in late November and early December would have known that a tiny band of terrorists had come ashore in Mumbai, killing more than 100 Indians and foreign visitors, and that most observers speculated the attack probably came from Pakistan. They would have known that Thai protesters had occupied the Bangkok airport, stranding hundreds of tourists. And they would have known that economic chaos and cholera were descending on Zimbabwe, which President Robert Mugabe held in what was almost literally a death grip. But they would not have known that the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo had been handed over from United Nations forces to those of the European Union. They would not have heard that drugs manufactured around the world were being exported to the U.S. with few, if any, safeguards against accidental or deliberate adulteration.

PBS to develop proposal for public affairs channel

Backed by a $200,000 Knight Foundation grant, PBS will develop a proposal for a public affairs channel — working title, Public Square — that public TV stations could air on DTV multicast channels, the network announced Jan. 8 [2004]. The channel would offer “sustained electronic journalism” that contrasts with other networks where “sleaze repeatedly trumps substance,” said Hodding Carter, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in a news release. “You might say what CNN’s potential seemed to be at the height of its potential is where we’re going,” Carter told Current. Repeats of PBS public affairs shows on the new channel could bulk up the programs’ audiences, cable-style, but Public Square would also need exclusive programming, said PBS co-chief program executive Coby Atlas.

To empower active citizens with knowledge, locally as well as nationally

When President Clinton had just taken office in 1993, Current asked an assortment of outside-the-Beltway people connected with public broadcasting to write open letters to him about the field’s public-service potential. One was Bill Kling, president of Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul and founder of American Public Radio. Dear President Clinton:

I know that as a listener to public radio around the country, you know its national programming well. At a time when the spirit of a new national agenda is high, the mission of public radio fits well into the public understanding and assimilation of that agenda just as it has for every administration since Lyndon Johnson’s.