So, what I want to do is look at big buckets of issues. I’m very interested in robotics technology. I’m very interested in nanotechnology. I’m interested in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] education issues and how this nation addresses a huge problem we have in a lack of expertise among science teachers. I’m interested in the technological shift that is making newspapers and books more or less obsolete—I’m sitting here looking at my iPad as I talk to you—and how that profoundly changes the way we all process and learn. So, those are like big buckets of issues, and what we have to do now is figure out how to fill up eight minutes on that, and find the right people and subject matter. We’ve had our initial story meetings. The NewsHour is interested in a lot of things that I’m interested in, which is always nice, and frankly, stuff that I had a hard time selling at CNN.
So, I’m heartened that they’re willing to take some chances on stories that might on the surface look like, “Hmm, I wonder if that’s going to be interesting television.” I guess they have a little bit of faith in me to make that work for them. So, that puts a little more pressure on me, but that’s what we’re doing right now. I’m going to be working with my long-time producer at CNN, Kate Tobin, who left the day I did at CNN. We’ve actually worked together now for eighteen years, covering any number of science stories. She really knows science, and studied biology in school. I’m of course a history major who is just enthused about it. So we’re a good team, and we are going through our wish list right now, trying to make these big buckets of ideas into stories with a nice little narrative. My production company will actually go out, hire the crews, and we’ll do the production component of it. Obviously, the NewsHour is going to be doing all the script approvals and so forth, and we have the ability to tap into the resources of their staff. So we’re going to be doing a lot of stuff. Everything we’ll be doing will have a very robust web component, as every organization does these days, but the NewsHour is pushing very hard in that realm right now. So, it’s good. I feel like I’ve got a little bit of independence to seek out some of that cool things that interest me, but I’ve got a nice supportive safety net there of people that are going to help make these stories work.
Is the plan to produce one of these eight-minute segments for each nightly broadcast?
No. We have agreed to do twelve pieces for them over the next nine months for this first round, and how those will be released will depend on news pegs. For example, on November 1 they’re going to launch a robot to the international space station on the shuttle, and that’s a great opportunity to do that robotics piece that I’ve been dying to do. So, that is probably going to be the first story out of the gate.
The NewsHour wants us to stay close to the news curve and that’s appropriate, and obviously Kate and I, with all our time at CNN, know how to do that. So, we can’t be too indulgent—off in a corner that doesn’t relate to the news flow at all. But the beauty of it is that there’s a lot of stories that we run into each day, whether it’s climate change, or STEM education, or vaccines, or the BP oil spill—they all have a very compelling and important science component, which really isn’t being told, and that’s the opportunity we have to inform our audience.