Demonstrating its leadership role in shaping news and public affairs journalism for the decade ahead, PBS will offer NEED TO KNOW, an integrated broadcast and online current affairs project launching in May 2010.
Uniting broadcast and web in an innovative approach to newsgathering and reporting, NEED TO KNOWwill advance PBS’s role as America’s most-trusted provider of news and information into a dynamic source of current affairs coverage for today’s media consumers.
“Through persistent, strategic innovation during the past three years, PBS has been transforming itself, taking public media content beyond the television screen and making it available on multiple platforms, including the Internet and mobile devices,” said Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS. “NEED TO KNOWis the latest step in this ongoing evolution. NEED TO KNOW will take the top stories and put them in context, offering a deeper understanding of the issues of our times.”
“In-depth reporting, intelligent analysis, thoughtful commentary and relevant features are the hallmarks of PBS public affairs programming,” said Neal Shapiro, President and CEO of WNET.ORG. “NEED TO KNOWwill carry on this tradition, but it will break through the limitations of the broadcast schedule by means of a web-based production model that empowers audiences to ‘tune in’ anytime and anywhere. NEED TO KNOWis truly news for a new generation.”
NEED TO KNOWis one of the key components of a PBS news and public affairs initiative, the first phase of which focuses on improving service to the public in three areas — on-air, online and service to communities through local stations.
“The goal of the initiative is to make all of our news and public affairs content more user-friendly and pertinent to the way people use media now. That means updating what we offer on television, but also connecting and coordinating everything we do both online and on-air to give the public easier access to the full array of what PBS offers,” said John Boland, PBS Chief Content Officer, who devised the initiative. “This responds not only to the digital multi-platform media environment of the 21st century, but also to the crisis in journalism.”
Viewers saw the first phase of changes to the broadcast line-up with the debut of the redesigned PBS NEWSHOUR in December and the revamped NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT in early January. In the spring, as NEED TO KNOWpremieres, PBS will begin aggregating all of its news and public affairs content along with offerings from editorial partners in an online “supervertical” site at pbs.org, as well as distributing the content across the web. PBS is also joining leading public media entities in a partnership to develop a local/national system to support stations in responding more effectively to the gaps in local journalism created by the upheaval in the newspaper industry.
A cross-media initiative built around a wide community of journalists and producers, with input from a savvy engaged audience, NEED TO KNOWwill cover five primary beats: the Economy; the Environment and Energy; Health; Security; and Culture. Stories, interviews, blogs and photo features will be continually added to and updated online, with the production teams inviting interaction and input from online readers and users who are on the lookout for the latest information on a given subject.
Each week’s online story development will culminate in the weekly one-hour broadcast, curated from the week’s reporting by the various beat teams. The broadcast will feature documentary-style field reports, both domestic and international, short features and studio-based interviews and conversation to complement and advance the produced reports. NEED TO KNOWwill be produced in WNET.ORG’s new flagship studio at Lincoln Center in New York City. The program will air on PBS stations nationwide on Friday evenings, joining PBS’s acclaimed public affairs lineup, including PBS NEWSHOUR and NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, as well as FRONTLINE and WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL.
“NEED TO KNOWwill complement PBS NEWSHOUR’s daily news coverage and FRONTLINE’s long-lead documentary format with an end-of-week exploration of what we suggest smart, busy people ‘need to know’,” said Stephen Segaller, Vice President for Content at WNET.ORG and Executive in Charge of NEED TO KNOW. “In the past five years, the world of content has changed dramatically. We’re inundated with content and information — but what’s important? We believe this new online-to-broadcast approach — in its philosophy and its uniquely contemporary production method — will bring a new immediacy and engagement to public affairs programming on PBS. And it will bring new faces, new voices and new audiences to a revered media institution.”