"A nightly look at civilization."
That's how John H. Hoagland Jr. describes the program that premiered last Monday by The Christian Science Monitor on cable's the Discovery Channel. As manager of the Christian Science Publishing Society - which publishes the Monitor - Mr. Hoagland directed the hectic activity leading up to the debut of World Monitor (weekdays at 5 p.m., DSC)."We're trying to provide a context for world events," Hoagland explains.
It's been very hard work, he adds. But some of the load will now be shouldered by a new arrival at "World Monitor" headquarters here: Sanford Socolow, a veteran of TV news production whose credits include many years as Walter Cronkite's executive producer. Mr. Socolow will be managing daily news desk operations.
"A lot of talk has been going on for a long time about the look and sound and feel of the program," Hoagland says. "Every element has to express what you're trying to do - the music, the set, the people, the format, and, most important, the story selection."
Hoagland describes the production style as highly visual, with a deemphasis on studio dialogue, or "talking heads." A videotape of a "World Monitor" run-through makes the point. From the opening credits, a flow of images fills the screen as world events are analyzed.
"We're trying to develop a number of new approaches," Hoagland explains. "The program includes the news, but it needs to be more -events and trends that people need to know but wouldn't find otherwise."
How does Hoagland feel such an approach will stack up against the syndicated TV show to be premiered on the very same night by another newspaper, USA Today?
"It's really been a plus for both programs," Hoagland asserts. "Very broadly speaking, we will tend to go deep, and USA Today will tend to go broad. We'll have fewer segments, they'll have more. . . . USA Today takes a very different approach to the news from the Monitor, but it's a useful publication. The characteristics of the parent organizations will be evident in both programs."
"World Monitor" will offer advertisers what Hoagland calls "an old-fashioned sense of identity and commitment, not just buying a spot. Also, we and Discovery see a strong role for this program in current-affairs programs in schools, through print study materials and the program itself. That is of great interest to our sponsors."
The Discovery network reaches an average of about 160,000 households per show on an all-day basis. At prime time (8-11 p.m.), this rises to some 290,000 homes for the average show. In terms of physical connections into the system, 34 million homes subscribe to cable systems that carry Discovery. "World Monitor" will also be available on Boston's Channel 68.
Most nights "World Monitor" will include reports by one or more of its senior correspondents, says editorial producer David Cook. They are Ned Temko in London, Julia Malone in Washington, and Takashi Oka in Tokyo. Sometimes experts will be called in, and "the correspondents and the experts will talk in a global conversation about the issue," says Hoagland.
In addition to the "headline" section of breaking news, feature segments will often be offered. "They could cover environment, political, or economic trends, or the arts," Hoagland points out. "For example, if there's a major art exhibition anywhere in the world that people ought to know about, we're likely to cover it with a senior art critic."
He says there will also an opinion-and-editorial piece most nights, from anywhere in the world.
"We're really trying to present people to people throughout the world, to give viewers news of substance, free of sensation and in a lively way."