Programming

Martin Savidge Puts Focus on the World

Former NBC News correspondent talks with B&C about anchoring new nightly newscast Worldfocus , launching this week. 10/06/2008 12:00:00 AM Eastern

Former NBC News correspondent Martin Savidge steps to the anchor chair this week to front the nightly Worldfocus newscast on public television. Worldfocus debuts in 28 of the top 30 markets, replacing BBC World News in many of them.

Unlike the BBC newscast, Savidge says, Worldfocus will gather and process news from around the world specifically for the American audience. The modestly funded program taps a wide range of news organizations, from The New York Times to the Christian Science Monitor to media outlets in India and Syria.

Martin SavidgeSavidge says his former NBC News teammate Ann Curry pushed him toward Worldfocus, thinking it was a perfect outlet for Savidge's taste for global news. Splitting time between his home in Atlanta and his Worldfocus base at WLIW New York, Savidge spoke with B&C's Michael Malone about what Worldfocus can offer that America's major news organizations do not.


Why does America need another newscast?

This newscast is focused on international news and how it relates to Americans. I think anybody who watches the domestic evening newscasts now would have a very hard time finding anything that focuses outside the borders of the United States. Last night I watched one of them, I won't say which, and I counted 17 seconds that was done on a terrible stampede out of India. That's not the only story to happen around the world of major consequence for the United States. We'll do 30 minutes of it every night and we do it in a way that's unlike the BBC, which says, here's all the international stuff, you figure out if it matters. We find all the international news that has a direct impact on Americans and we deliver it in a way that's written well, it's intelligent, it's interesting to watch.

Is there concern that you'll be preaching to the choir, in terms of sophisticated PBS viewers who read The New York Times and get news from a range of sources, with mainstream America missing these stories?

The public television audience is clearly a pretty special audience. Most of them are not only well educated but well traveled...But that's sort of like asking if there's too much foreign news being reported in America. I don't think there's anywhere near enough and certainly not on television. Perhaps the only other outlet that people can turn to is the BBC, which is an excellent news organization. But I'll point out the first B in BBC is “British,” and they have their own perspective of reporting and viewing the world.

We're not pretending to be a startup of CNN or NBC. We don't have that kind of budget or manpower, but we do have that kind of reach, thanks to relationships we have with other networks in the regions of the world where we have an interest, such as ABC Australia, ITN in Great Britain, RNI in India, etc. We are building on these relationships all the time.


What will be the format for those stories?

Some of their material we will run as it ran in their country. Some of it we will meld into our own story. Every night we'll do a signature spot, a 6-8- minute in-depth story from around the world. We've sent crews out with specific themes. One we'll do [this week] is the high cost of food. In many nations, it can literally mean the difference between life and death. The high cost of fuel is another one of these expanded looks around the world.

Americans realized tragically on 9/11 that what the rest of the world thinks about us matters. Beyond the financial crisis we are going through, we know that our markets are linked to Asia, to Europe, and everybody is interconnected. Part of our desire is to show the connection and how people can relate to one another and hopefully understand one another.


How do you grade the network news coverage of the election?

They do a tremendous job of covering politics. I think [Americans] are fascinated by it, we can't get enough of it. That's part of the problem. The domestic newscasts are so crammed with politics that it, as we say in the business, sucks up all the air and leaves little airtime for anything else. Yet there are other important developments happening, and you need to be aware of them.

Often we say, boy, I had no idea that story was happening. Then we go back and look at the time line and realize there were indicators—it's just that they didn't make it onto the radar of the American people.

When you were doing rehearsal newscasts last week, where did the banking crisis and the bailout fall in the program?

It was in the first eight minutes. We focused [mainly] on how markets reacted around the world. We had a nice piece from ITN. Instead of Main Street, in England, they call it the High Street. They went to a small town about two hours north of London and talked to people on the High Street. That was very interesting to hear how people over there are seeing and feeling the same things Americans are. We were telling the story, but not from the domestic perspective—more of how the rest of the world was acting or reacting.

 

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