The HBO News Division


Did you catch the VICE special on HBO over the weekend? It was a fascinating mini-doc entitled “Killing Cancer.” The new season of VICE starts Friday, and it’s already locked in on my DVR.

Maybe you’re a fan of John Oliver, former correspondent for Jon Stewart’s, “The Daily Show,” and now sole anchor of his own news show on HBO, “Last Week Tonight.” It airs Sunday evenings but if you haven’t yet watched, check this out:

Last Week Tonight, with John Oliver.

Bill Maher, who produces Last Week Tonight,  has his own show on HBO called, “Real Time,” which focuses on issues in our world, discussed by a disparate panel of experts and celebrities. Maher’s a comedian, but this show is more about social commentary on the news than pure laughs.

HBO is also spending tons of money to bring original documentaries to their channels every Monday night, including “Citizenfour,” the story of Edward Snowden’s massive leak of NSA secrets which just won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary; and “Going Clear,” which generated incredible buzz at Sundance by revealing the inner secrets of the Church of Scientology.

Their intent with this programming seems clear: create appointment viewing centered around current events opinion shows. It’s about fewer but longer stories, something called “Slow Journalism.”

As Radio worries about the demise of News-Talk as a format, its demos aging faster than Rush can count his millions, I think we should take note of this.

Even PBS should give this serious thought, because the one thing PBS does not offer is humor centered around today’s hottest stories and issues.

NPR and PBS already know the value of longer-form story coverage, but they’ve become a bit too impressed with their own credentials to see the appeal of satire, of the blatant, intense, sarcastic skewering that attracted huge audiences to Jon Stewart’s nightly news program.

Clearly, younger viewers (and listeners) want more than the news they find on the network’s 30-minute evening news programs, and the fare they find on CNN and FOX News.

They want to be informed, but they want to hear opinions too because they realize that behind FOX and CBS, opinion has already shaped the story selection and writing. They want it less hidden and more entertaining.

Is anyone in radio, either commercial or public broadcasting, putting any thought into this?

We should be. HBO has proven that. And, boy, would I love to help!