‘Edition’ Keeps Pace With Times

Jan 13, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Darwin would have been proud.
From running out of the gate with a “gotcha” attitude and Bill O’Reilly as anchor in 1988 to today’s law-changing investigative pieces under anchor Deborah Norville, “Inside Edition” has evolved with the constantly changing television climate over the past 20 years, continuing to score as one of the top-rated shows in syndication.
The CBS-distributed newsmagazine celebrated two decades on the air last week, having long outlasted a one-time traffic jam within the genre that included series such as “Hard Copy” and “A Current Affair” (twice). Now the strip remains as the only non-celebrity-driven newsmagazine left in the race, ranking an easy second with a 3.4 season average behind “Entertainment Tonight.” In addition, “Inside Edition” is the only newsmagazine to resist the year-to-year erosion that’s affecting most syndicated product.
“When I came onboard, the producers said that the tabloid, ‘gotcha’ programming had run its course and we were going to move in a different direction,” Ms. Norville said. “It turns out they were right, and had the competition made the same editorial changes, they might have lasted a few more years.”
Both Ms. Norville and executive producer Charles Lachman lamented that the show’s biggest fan, the late Roger King—who originally built and sold the show in 1988—would be absent from the celebration.
“The death of Roger was heartbreaking for us,” Mr. Lachman said. “He was our founder and we were his baby, and it was such a devastating loss personally. We are still getting over it and will always remember him.”
As the series looks ahead to its third decade while competing with strips that dwell on the latest exploits of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, Mr. Lachman noted the current blend of information in the lineup, from pop culture to election news to investigative pieces, keeps the series fluid enough to appeal to a broad range of audiences.
“To my delight, we’re the only game in town in this genre. While we do a number of celebrity stories, those aren’t our bread and butter; our focus remains with investigative stories and stories with an exclusive twist,” he said. “But we’ll continue to tweak our show. Ten years ago, this show was not the show it is today, and 10 years from now, it won’t be the show it is today.”
Ms. Norville noted that the investigations, such as the story that prompted legislation by exposing door-to-door insurance salesmen ripping off low-income families and seniors, remained her favorite part of the series. However, she noted the celebrity aspect of the shows posed a difficult issue for the production team.
“I think the Britney, Whitney, Paris silliness is goofy. There are serious issues going on with them and I worry that we’re covering it too much,” said Ms. Norville. “I do worry that the amount of attention being given to some of these young stars in trouble is unhealthy and won’t end well. Do we need to encourage the paparazzi to grow by providing them a pretty comfortable living in purchasing the stuff? No one is really sure what the answer is.”
She said she’s proud that 98% of everything generated under her watch at “Inside Edition” has aired, noting the “MTV-ization” of news has boosted the number of stories aired per episode, with 14 or 15 items now filling a 22-minute hole that used to contain six.
“I’m really happy where the show is now,” Mr. Lachman said. “We provide the content every day to the viewers where they get value for watching us for 30 minutes. It’s fast-paced and entertaining and stays true to what the show has been about for 20 years.”


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