PBS unveils Need to Know

Beginning this May, PBS will launch a new weekly cross-media current affairs magazine series, aptly titled Need to Know and created by WNET.ORG in New York.
February 10, 2010

Beginning this May, PBS will launch a new weekly cross-media current affairs magazine series, aptly titled Need to Know and created by WNET.ORG in New York.

Since 2001, WNET hosted the ‘Wide Angle’ strand, created as a response to what was seen as a lack of comprehensive international news coverage in the United States. For the last eight years, ‘Wide Angle’ has been exclusively dedicated to international current affairs, assigning U.S. journalists to cover stories from the farthest reaches of the globe. The idea was to tell each story through the hearts and minds of those living it. While ‘Wide Angle’ will not be airing as a series this summer the focus on international reportage will also be part of the new strand, as well as a set of ‘Wide Angle’ specials which will include Women, War & Peace, a four-part series that will launch with the TV premiere of the acclaimed doc Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

‘WNET remains dedicated to in-depth international content, and we will continue to review all ‘Wide Angle’-style submissions as possible features for the new series,’ say Tom Casciato, director of news and current affairs at WNET and executive producer of ‘Wide Angle.’ He adds, ‘We will also be actively pursuing material of varying lengths that will enable us to expand the variety and reach of what we cover internationally.’

Following a similar stream of news hunting and gathering, Need to Know will continue to combine broadcast and web reporting to acquire ‘the top stories and put them in context, offering a deeper understanding,’ says President and CEO of PBS, Paula Kerger.

After the series’ TV premiere on May 7, PBS will create an online ‘supervertical’ site at, a basic amalgamation of news and public affairs content which will also feature contributions from its editorial partners. Together with other leading public media outlets, PBS plans to create a local and national station support system – one that acknowledges and works towards mending the gaps in local journalism due to the recent turmoil of the newspaper industry.

Each 60-minute edition of Need to Know will consist of the previous week of reporting, encompassing a wide community of journalists and producers whose content will ‘blend documentary-style field reports, both national and international, [and] features and interviews on topics including the economy, the environment and energy, health, security and culture,’ continues Casciato. Online news stories, blogs and photo features will be consistently updated with the possibility for users and readers to lend their opinions and insights to the subject matter.

‘As far as international reporting goes,’ says Casciato, ‘we remain interested in what ‘Wide Angle’ has always been interested in: stories that put a very human face on the great global issues of our time.’

The program will air on PBS stations nationwide on Friday evenings, premiering on Friday, May 7 at 8:30 p.m. on PBS and Online at

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Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.