Last November, Slate V started hosting a snappy, weekly screencast that served as a “science news roundup for the rest of us.” The three-minute show, Grand Unified Weekly, felt like a science-geek version of VH1’s Pop Up Video, with witty hosts, clever Mac-centric imaging, and quirky environmental, health, and technology stories. But just as the show was beginning to gain attention in iTunes podcasts and blogs (and, oddly enough, just as we began a review of it), Grand Unified Weekly’s test run ran out. The last episode before an unspecified hiatus was posted today.
“Grand Unified Weekly is beautifully produced and laboriously constructed, but it is therefore costly,” says Andy Bowers, Editor of Slate V. “Unfortunately, these are times when costs are of the essence.”
“We love making the show,” says John Pavlus, the Weekly’s creator, writer, and co-host. “I don’t want it to go away, but some hurdles have to be surmounted. We have to figure out how to make the show sustainable.”
The idea behind Grand Unified Weekly was promising. Producing short, downloadable, and energetic clips is an easy way to give busy people a jolt of science news. The show’s abundant pop-culture references and barrage of YouTube videos and Wikipedia pages to visually highlight the news were appropriately geared toward a younger, Internet-savvy audience that is, let’s face it, the least likely to read the original published articles.
“Everything about it just tickles us and we think it fits very well on Slate V,” says Bowers. “It is a unique and very current way of approaching science news … and these are the responses we are getting from the viewers.”
In the ten episodes produced and aired for Slate V, the show covered topics from President Obama’s science policy and funding aspirations to honey bees on cocaine. The only area in which the show faltered was its promise of a “roundup” of the week in science. From among the thousands of science and technology articles pouring through Google News alerts, was the show actually providing an comprehensive roundup of the most newsworthy stories, or just the most unusual ones? Was it giving its viewers the most important science developments, or just the conversation starters?
We wanted more packed into each episode. And we wanted more episodes.
Pavlus explains that while there has been only positive feedback from viewers, the window-popping, image-synchronizing production demanded a big commitment of time and, as Bowers mentioned, money. During the show’s hiatus, Slate V will look at ways to make it more cost-efficient and attract more viewers. Pavlus says part of the rethinking could involve looking for a new host for the show, one that wouldn’t jeopardize the production format.
At a time when media companies are increasingly willing to take risks with online news programs and special features, it is a shame to see a program with such potential and originality go dark. We hope Pavlus can get his Grand Unified Weekly back in the mix.Katherine Bagley is a science, environment and health journalist based in New York City. She is currently working as a reporter for Audubon Magazine.