Its a wonderful life - Broadcasting & Cable

Its a wonderful life

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The Broadcasting & Cable Newsroom, New York City: Reporter KEN KERSCHBAUMER is sucked through a broadband connection into a PC and finds JONATHAN KLEIN, president/CEO of the FeedRoom, sitting at a table, brow glistening with sweat as the computer's cooling fans struggle to do their job.

He's nervous-his company's site is only days away from making its official launch, delivering personalized video newscasts via broadband to PCs across the country. A number of station groups, including NBC and Tribune have invested in the company. They're believers. But Klein looks perplexed.

KLEIN: Ummm...what exactly are we doing here? When you said I'd be profiled in the pages of Broadcasting & Cable magazine, I didn't think I'd end up inside a computer.

KERSCHBAUMER: Well, this is sort of your idea. You mentioned a link between your passion, screenwriting, and journalism. Care to explain?

KLEIN: "As a screenwriter you look at the blank page and say 'What kind of world should there be and what kind of characters?' And in the news and information business there is the chance of being just that creative, if you decide to take it.

For the most part, journalism is black and white, and most journalists aren't comfortable in the gray area. But I guess that's where I'm most comfortable."

KERSCHBAUMER: Seems to me right now we're in the gray area, and I think my editors are nervous. But let's continue. Why would you give up the comfort of traditional broadcast journalism for the broadband world?

You were an integral part of creating 48 Hours, you've won Emmy awards and Peabody awards, you were a producer for CBS Morning News, and you've worked with some of the biggest names in news.

On top of that, it's hot in here. So why the FeedRoom?

KLEIN: "Well, since 1998 the penetration of broadband is doubled, and we can now tell stories with video on a computer. And I wanted to be part of that because I always envied the pioneers at CBS who had defined the way television journalism would work.

And I wanted to be part of the next wave."

A busy CBS newsroom, circa 1982:

KLEIN is working as a writer for CBS Newsbreak anchor DOUGLAS EDWARDS, who was also the first anchor of the CBS Evening News. That makes him one of the pioneers KLEIN wants to emulate.

KLEIN VOICEOVER: "It was so cool to be 23 years old, banging out copy for Douglas Edwards. I couldn't believe he was saying my words. It's a much greater thrill to hear Douglas Edwards or Dan Rather read your script than there is in hoping Danny Glover is going to say something you wrote."

The KLEIN apartment, December 1997: KLEIN's passion, screenwriting, is about to make it to the tube. KLEIN sits in front of his television watching the production of his screenplay The Buffalo Soldiers on TNT starring Glover. KLEIN's wife, JENNIFER, and boxer dog, RIPLEY, are at his side. KLEIN heads to the bathroom, and JENNIFER yells out to him.

JENNIFER: "That's your line!"

KLEIN runs back, but he's missed it-the one line that wasn't changed by producers.

KLEIN: "Damn" [laughs].

Cut to the CBS newsroom, present day: ANDREW HEYWARD, CBS News president, discusses KLEIN with a journalist, while RATHER stands at his door, 25 minutes before airtime.

HEYWARD: "He's a pusher of boundaries, and, therefore, often an offender of sensibilities. And that's because he's an innovator who's willing to challenge traditions. But I think that's a very good mentality to enter the world of the Internet."

Cut to inside the computer, the heart of the information exchange. KLEIN stands up, looks out of the monitor, into the real world. He sees his employees gearing up for the convergence of broadband technology and the viewer.

KLEIN: "You need a core idea you believe in, and in our case it's empowering viewers to make choices about what they watch and when they watch it, to democratize the process so every viewer has the chance to see every piece of video they want to.

Now, how you get there is a matter of tactics, but don't lose sight of the core mission, which is to let viewers into the inner sanctum so they can make choices. That's what the whole information revolution has been about."

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