KQED Newsroom to relaunch Oct. 18

By Graham Vyse

Northern California’s KQED-TV is revamping its Friday evening public affairs show by reviving a title from its distant past.

KQED Newsroom, a groundbreaking show for the San Francisco station and the public TV system at large when it debuted in 1968, relaunches Oct. 18. It will replace This Week in Northern California, a weekly journalists’ roundtable that had been hosted by broadcast journalist Belva Davis, who retired last year after 19 years with the show.

Thuy Vu will host the revamped KQED Newsroom.

Thuy Vu will host the revamped KQED Newsroom.

For the revamped KQED Newsroom, the station tapped Thuy Vu, an Emmy-winning CBS News anchor and reporter who began her career at KQED-FM. Scott Shafer, host and reporter for KQED-FM’s California Report, will contribute to the broadcast as a senior correspondent.

KQED officials describe the changes as part of a broader effort to put the full resources of KQED News behind its Friday night public affairs lineup. The multistation pubcaster began expanding its news output in 2010, focusing primarily on radio and digital platforms.

“KQED is transforming all of our services to meet the changing needs of the people of the Bay Area as they seek news and information on new digital media,” President John Boland said. “The new name, KQED Newsroom, signals a change, but also reminds us that KQED has been innovating to better serve the public for nearly 60 years.”

The original Newsroom was the first nightly news series to air on public television and served as a forerunner to the nationally distributed MacNeil/Lehrer Report. It launched in 1968 and ran for nine years, backed by a $750,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.

The late KQED founder James Day recalled its run in his 1995 history of public TV, The Vanishing Vision, noting the show’s coverage of the “People’s Park War,” which helped to diffuse tensions over the University of California’s move to reclaim property that had been occupied by city residents living in poverty.

Creators of the new Newsroom are conscious of this history.

“We are aspiring to be a program of record for Northern California,” said Joanne Jennings, executive producer. “We want to be a place where newsmakers can come and speak beyond sound bites.”

The show will feature traditional roundtable discussions with journalists — a staple of This Week in Northern California and the original Newsroom, Jennings said. But the show’s team plans a renewed push to examine national issues through a local lens. KQED adopted this approach in coverage of Bay Area gun violence that was produced after the December 2012 elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

KQED Radio's Scott Shafer will serve as  KQED Newsroom's senior correspondent.

KQED Radio’s Scott Shafer, host of The California Report, will serve as KQED Newsroom senior correspondent.

To deliver Newsroom on multiple platforms, KQED will produce a Sunday night radio broadcast with audio from the TV show. And for its online presence, Jennings looks to offer something different than streaming video of the news program; she’s focused on what she calls “web-native web video.”

“People who consume video on the Web often crave something a little bit different from what is on television,” she said.

Some changes to the weekly broadcast will take time to implement — “We don’t have all the resources to do it at once, so we’re going to roll it out slowly,” Jennings said — but she said she is committed to help build KQED’s regional news service.

“I think it’s more important than ever,” she said. “People can get national content wherever they want. I think it’s our responsibility to provide local content as well.”

Questions, comments, tips? graham.vyse@gmail.com
This article was first published in Current, July 22, 2013.
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