TV show pilot taped at GW

“On Background,” a new television show hosted by professor Steve Roberts, took center stage Monday night in a packed Jack Morton Auditorium for its first taping.

In its pilot episode, the interview show welcomed ABC News correspondent Sam Donaldson. Roberts and creator-producer Reena Ninan, a GW graduate, hope a major television network will buy the show.

“There is an enormous interest in the media today,” said Roberts, a Shapiro professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs and former New York Times correspondent.

Roberts, a frequent guest on political TV shows, said “On Background” is meant to illuminate how the media decides what consumers want to see on TV.

“One of the reasons is more and more consumers want to know why they are getting what they are getting,” Roberts said.

In the one-hour show, Donaldson reminisced about his childhood in New Mexico, his years as chief White House correspondent for ABC News and his time reporting overseas.

“I loved to talk,” said Donaldson when he was asked how he found his niche in journalism.

Donaldson, who covered the Reagan administration, commented on the current White House Press Corps, admitting that those reporting on the Bush administration have it harder than he did because of decreased access to the president.

“George Bush is disciplined with his answers,” Donaldson said. “He almost never deviates from his message.”

Ninan, a Fox News producer and 2001 SMPA graduate, said the pilot is modeled after the Bravo show “Inside the Actors’ Studio.” She credited Roberts with the show’s success.

“Steve Roberts is one of the most brilliant storytellers and interviewers I’ve ever met,” Ninan said.

Roberts hopes to continue filming “On Background” at GW because of the facilities and unique experience provided to students.

“The show fits well with the mission of the SMPA. It gives real-life opportunities for the students,” he said.

If acquired by a major television station, the show’s guest would not be limited to American journalists, Ninan said. She foresees bringing on well-known print journalists, Internet bloggers and journalists from international media networks such as Al-Jazeera.

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