Are you watching PBS’ 'Everything But The News' yet?
"...we could lampoon the news-gathering process and shed light on real issues along the way."
Shortly before the launch of his new PBS web series, Steve Goldbloom shared it with Muck Rack. The partnership makes sense considering this long-time producer’s new take on the news blends a tongue-in-cheek approach to the process with a genuine desire to bring modern issues to light. It’s not unlike the idea of culling journalists’ Twitter feeds for info on the day’s trending news. Both involve a love of precedent and an eye on the future. We were thrilled to hear about Everything But The News, and doubly so after watching it.
In his own words, Goldbloom told us what inspired this fun new series, how it's all played out, and the most interesting things he's done covering news from the sidelines.
"Having produced a series of goofy videos for PBS in the past, my co-creator Noah Pink and I were referred to the PBS Digital Studios team (the network's digital arm that produces innovative, original online programming). We wanted to do something in news since I had worked at the PBS NewsHour and always found a great deal of humor in the way news is packaged. Staged walk and talks, b-roll and, artificial cutaways…I thought if we could lampoon the news-gathering process and shed light on real issues along the way, then we might have something.
[Now that it’s out], we hope to reach regular PBS viewers with a sense of humor but also want to bring a new, non-traditional audience to PBS. Ultimately I'm a gigantic supporter of public media and the NewsHour. I have enormous respect for the show and for the value of that kind of real-estate on public television. Though my character in Everything But The News pushes that reverence into absurdity, we don't expect people to take the pieces too seriously. They're light and silly but occasionally we tap into issues of substance.
Ahead of filming, we read a New Yorker piece by George Packer, criticizing Silicon Valley for placing too much emphasis on the needs of the elite (eg: apps designed for and by twenty-somethings with cash to burn). I think we found a clever way of depicting this in our start-up episode by visiting some of these incubators of tech without being too heavy-handed about the messaging. Viewers can put that together for themselves.
My favorite expression from a politician being interviewed on the NewsHour is: ‘Well, Gwen, what I really think you're asking me is....’ It's so easy for politicians and CEOs to dodge questions and cram their talking points into media appearances. Everything But The News allowed us to manipulate the interview environment. For instance, we had Reddit’s chief engineer explain the site to my mother, who, while a lovely person, would be on the lower scale of new-media literacy skills. We also drove around in the backseat of an Uber with the CEO of that company (Travis Kalanick), asking him about the cease and desist letters Uber's received from the government. When we spoke with the Indiegogo CEO (Slava Rubin), we wrote a narrative into the story that our show was being canceled by PBS and asked them for advice on setting up a campaign. All of this changed the environment and required the subjects to dig up a response that was probably different from their standard talking points.
I have an affinity for the ridiculous so I naturally gravitate to people who don't take themselves too seriously. Indiegogo seemed to get what we were up to from the start and really had fun playing along with the narrative about our show being cancelled - that makes them a favorite. You also have to give credit to NewsHour for participating in this. That in itself reveals a tremendous amount of security on their part to laugh at themselves and the news business.
The more we laugh at the artificiality of news-gathering the more we require TV personalities to be genuine with viewers. Ever wonder why news reporters speak in a sing-song like voice during a standup? I never understood that kind of up-speak and always found it both funny and slightly condescending. I think shows like Everything But The News inject a wink of self-awareness into the news business that's refreshing. At least I hope!"
The first episode of Everything But The News premiered on February 13, with new installments being rolled out every Wednesday for the next eight weeks. Here's this week's Episode 2. Bonus if you have PBS on your Apple TV cause you can binge on them all right now, House of Cards-style.