New CBS newsmagazine promises immersive storytelling
CBS premieres a news program Monday designed to showcase the journalism on its CBSN streaming service, the second time this summer one of the broadcast networks has tried a fresh twist on the newsmagazine format.
"CBSN: On Assignment" airs the first of four summer episodes Monday at 10 p.m. EDT, a day after NBC's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" has its last show until next spring. The CBS series promises no host, no celebrity interviews and a storytelling style that will be familiar to young fans of Vice and John Oliver.
Its first episode includes stories on foreign workers building American auto plants, the recruitment of children as Islamic State fighters and innovative uses of robots in Japan.
The idea is to give broadcast exposure to the more immersive storytelling used on CBSN, said Mosheh Oinounou, the series' executive producer.
"We're trying to take folks there in a way that is a little less polished, a little more raw," Oinounou said. "At a time when there's a lot of scrutiny of journalism and news, we're trying to be much more transparent about how we got the story and how we tell the story."
At times that can be distracting, like when Charlie D'Agata tells viewers about the smell of rotting bodies as he walks down a street in Iraq, or Vladimir Duthiers on an early-morning stakeout of an auto plant. But they're interesting stories off the path of the evening news and given room to breathe.
CBSN's experience, along with the popularity of Vice and in-depth segments on Oliver's HBO show, point to a taste among younger viewers to take time with worthwhile stories, said Nancy Lane, senior executive producer of CBS Digital.
The show will be simulcast on both the network and streaming service. While reporters and techniques familiar to CBSN viewers will be on display, the newsmagazine's stories won't be reruns of things already shown on CBSN.
"We're hopeful it will work both ways," Lane said. "It will have the more traditional audience of broadcast taste and experience what digital is, and have some of the digital people realize that CBS News is not some stuffy old network. It's actually got a broad range of reporting, ideas and voices that can bring information to them."
Duthier, who's working on a future piece about North Korea, said he enjoys bringing viewers along for the ride in his stories.
Oinounou also had a promise for viewers who may be getting political fatigue.
"This effectively can be a Washington or Trump-free zone for an hour," he said.
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