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Robert Krulwich

      . . .ABC News correspondent since 1994. Specializing in explaining complex news about economics, technology and science, he has produced and co-hosted series with Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel and Barbara Walters. Prior to ABC, Mr. Krulwich appeared regularly on „CBS This Morning,š „48 Hoursš and „CBS‚ Nightwatch with Charlie Rose.š From 1978-1985, he was business and economics correspondent for National Public Radio, to which he still contributes. His reporting for PBS‚ „Frontlineš has won a number of national awards.

Excerpts4:00 secs

      Once upon a time, American network news organizations took risks. Now those risks are being taken on the fiction side of television, according to ABC News correspondent Robert Krulwich. Social issues are played out in dramas and situation comedies, not on the newscasts which are signposted, managed, reductive, and defensive. Somehow, he observes, people in the news divisions seem to have lost their ambition.

      The audience itself is changing, Mr. Krulwich reminds us. An entire segment of the educated public simply does not include the network news among their news sources. They‚ve lost the network news habit. Even when the news organizations do excellent programs, it takes a long time for this huge numbers of people to even know the shows are there because they‚re not.

      Yes, these changes have the networks and their owners worried. But they have a big problem -- they‚re making twice as much money for half the audience they drew 10 years ago. In the early years, Madison Avenue paid so much for Lucy and Jackie Gleason that there was enough money left over to fund entire news operations. Now news itself is required to be profitable. And newspeople, stars. It‚s a far cry, says Mr. Krulwich, from the days of Edward R. Murrow or even Walter Cronkite, names a growing number of people simply do not recognize.

      But there are hints of change in the other direction, too. Mr. Krulwich -- a notable exception to look-alike reporters -- cites a series he did with Ted Koppel in 1999. They called it „Brave New World.š (Why could they deviate from the norm? No risk -- it was summer and they were airing opposite a block-buster of a drama.) Mr. Koppel and Mr. Krulwich argued a lot doing these shows, he says. And it was wonderful.

      How does Mr. Krulwich see his job? He attempts to go into a nook of the world that is either incomprehensible or seems objectionable. Physics. Economics. Hip-Hop music. He sees if he can create something that connects that „otherš back to us all. A sort of weaving, he says.

      When we have instant images from all kinds of new technologies and both images and sounds are increasingly manufacturable, what‚s a news-packaging company (a.k.a. network) to do?  Choose some of the things that everyone‚s already seen in the course of the day, dwell on them and figure out their semiotics -- the beginnings, ends and reasons for what we‚ve already seen, he predicts.

      Is Robert Krulwich one of a kind? Not for long. He says he‚s training lots of 28 year olds to move away from today‚s stereotypes. To be storytellers. Mr. Krulwich sees them as the vanguard of what he foresees:  a vibrant, multi-sourced world in which people who are very good at their jobs make it possible for us to help ourselves to lots of information. Then, he thinks we can figure out new places to solve our other problem -- Where do we go together?

[This Program was recorded September 15, 2000 in Oberlin Ohio, US.]

Conversation 1

Robert Krulwich explains his approach to news stories to Paula Gordon and Bill Russell.  Mr. Krulwich describes one story that did not work (along with Peter Jennings‚ response) and gives examples of the range of stories that attract him.


Conversation 2

Characterizing his own style, Mr. Krulwich describes how the sound of news has changed from a generic Voice Of Newsland to a calculated form of stickiness. Bill Moyers‚ influence is noted, along with other television and radio luminaries, whose influence Mr. Krulwich honors with examples. He describes his job. Egos are discussed. Mr. Krulwich compares television and radio and gives illustrations of what it takes to get and hold people‚s attention on television.


Conversation 3

Giving the broadest definition of his job as „storyteller,š Mr. Krulwich demonstrates tricks of the trade. He explains what he thinks is hardest for young reporters.  He describes how people in audiences watch the news. He compares audiences for various formats of radio and television. He talks about the mix of news and entertainment, using his story on Hip-Hop music to make his point.  He explains the importance of new avenues by which information is disseminated.


Conversation 4

The self-perception of network news organizations is considered, with Mr. Krulwich noting a tension between trying to be credible, copious and careful and, at the same time, trying to make money. Mr. Krulwich uses examples to explore this paradox and its effects. JOHN SEELY BROWN‚s (http://www.paulagordon.com/shows/brown) observations on the importance or the editorial function are cited, to which Mr. Krulwich responds by celebrating fragmentation. He describes what news-packaging companies (aka, networks) might do in the future, and considers alternative approaches necessitated by dramatically altered technology. Describing news as increasingly manufacturable, Mr. Krulwich considers where the real talent of a deeply organized news division may lie. He explains why he thinks his approach to covering news will be increasingly popular.


Conversation 5

Using a series he did with Ted Koppel as his example, Mr. Krulwich talks about taking risks in network television. He explains why he believes this is an odd moment for news divisions. He explains why all the Networks‚ declining ability to attract a wide, intelligent audience for news is a huge problem and links it to a relative scarcity of excellent programming. He critiques the tendency to water down and spin off from successful news programs.  He explains the economics of the television business. He describes his role as a professional host, exemplified by what drew him to the location for this conversation.


Conversation 6

Mr. Krulwich reminds us that a large part of his appeal is that he makes news fun. He describes national moods that affect news coverage. The role of seduction in creating news is revisited. He describes what he thinks the news will look like in 20 years.


Acknowledgements

This conversation with Robert Krulwich took place during the dedication of the Joseph Adam Lewis Environmental Center at Oberlin College in September, 2000.   Robert (Oberlin Class of ő69 and a former College Trustee) was moderating the community-wide symposium which was part of the celebration. Over the course of that weekend, we produced a series of programs with extraordinary people which you will find on this site: David Orr, whose vision of ecological literacy was made manifest in the Lewis Center; William McDonough, lead architect for the Lewis Center and one of the leaders of what he calls „The Next Industrial Revolution;š Denis Hayes, founding coordinator and international head of Earth Day; and environmental writer Janine Benyus who will be appearing soon. The environmental heroes who were there included industrialist Ray C. Anderson, founder and visionary CEO of Interface, Inc.

We particularly thank Oberlin‚s Vice President Al Moran, his able assistant Darla Warren, the incomparable Marci Janas, David Orr and Bev Burgess, Dr. Orr‚s assistant in the Environmental Studies Program.

Related Links:
You can connect with Robert Krulwhich from ABC News‚ website


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