‘On the Story’ gains steam

Despite the absence of the partisan screaming matches of its predecessor, “On the Story” has had cameras rolling to a receptive GW community seven weeks into the CNN show’s run on campus.

More than 1,000 people have attended the weekly news program since its first broadcast from the Jack Morton Auditorium July 8, said Heather Clapp Date, the show’s coordinating producer. And with several students already working for the show, “On the Story” has gotten off to a smooth start at GW.

“I was lucky to be able to help out with the very first few shows of ‘On the Story,'” junior Jennifer Riedinger said. “It was an awesome experience, seeing how a CNN program was planned for and executed.”

In June, the University announced it would continue its relationship with the 24-hour news network after CNN canceled “Crossfire,” the political debate show that broadcast from the School of Media and Public Affairs building every weekday.

Since “Crossfire” came to campus in 2002, more than 200 students have worked with CNN on campus through the University’s volunteer program and CNN internships, allowing students to gain firsthand experience with the fundamentals of TV news.

Thirteen students worked with “On the Story” this summer to help with the show’s startup at GW.

“As a volunteer, I’ve been able to see how the crew handles production and puts together newscasts,” 2005 graduate Landy Wellford said. “I have had many responsibilities ranging from (audience) greetings, to working at the box office, to helping with camera angles,” she added.

Student volunteers and interns perform different tasks on set with assignments designed to introduce “the planning, organization and communication needed to stage a television event,” said Date, who helped organize “Crossfire” during its time at GW.

Audience turnout has been high at “On the Story” tapings, even though the hour-long weekly news show features a much different format than that of “Crossfire’s” fast-paced debates.

Hosted by CNN anchor Kyra Phillips, “On the Story” gives viewers an in-depth roundup of weekly news events with commentary from CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. The program also includes question-and-answer sessions with a studio audience and response to viewer e-mails.

Since “On the Story” is taped, instead of broadcast live, anchors occasionally redo segments that have been botched, a stark contrast from the rapid-fire pace of the live “Crossfire.” Also, unlike “Crossfire,” about a dozen audience members get to ask questions of panelists at “On the Story.” Hosts and panelists are chatty with audience members before and after the show and between segments.

“(On the Story)” is about how journalists gather the news and what it’s like to be on the front line,” Date said.

“Bringing ‘On the Story’ to GW … gives us the opportunity to do a hard news show that thrives on the participation of the live audience,” said Lucy Spiegel, senior executive producer of “On the Story” and CNN vice president for weekend programming.

During the show’s “Reporter’s Notebook” segment, viewers get an inside look at the week’s major news stories from the reporters who covered them. According to the show’s Web site, “On the Story” airs never-before-seen videos and reporter diaries.

The program, which began in 2003, is filmed every Friday from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Jack Morton Auditorium. The show airs on CNN Saturdays from 7 to 8 p.m. and again on Sundays from 10 to 11 a.m.

For free tickets call (202) 994-8CNN or visit the show’s Web site at CNN.com/onthestory. To volunteer for the show, students can call the same number or speak with an “On the Story” staff member after show tapings.

-Ryan Holeywell and Marissa Levy contributed to this report.

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