It is not a stretch to call The Weekly, the new television series from The New York Times, the most important show about the craft of journalism since 60 Minutes came along in 1968.
Since its debut on June 2, The Weekly has lifted the veil on how The Times’ investigative journalists pursue the truth. The 30-minute program centers on the fine art of storytelling. A reporter serves as the narrator to describe in detail how she or he covered a major news event — while always looking at the big picture, to tell the audience a larger story.
The key to The Weekly’s success is that each installment glorifies journalism, not journalists, and focuses on the story, not the personalities of the reporters who are talking about their assignments, which actually do verge on life and death issues. There is no mugging for the camera, no preening and no hyping of the news. For anyone who is fed up with the personality-based coverage of MSNBC and CNN, this is a welcome primer on the craft of reporting.
The Weekly is unflinching in presenting the stark nature of the stories. In one episode, ISIS specialist Rukmini Callimachi showed the ISIS terrorist who had killed innocent cyclists a photo of two American victims. She then listened as he reaffirmed his hatred for anyone who did not agree with his views. In another, immigration-beat reporter Caitlin Dickerson brilliantly traces the strange odyssey of the four-month-old boy who was taken from his father at a U.S. border. Watch it, and just try not to wind up feeling brokenhearted.
Doing Good, and Doing WellThe Weekly comes along at a crucial time for The New York Times Co. With such innovations as a terrific daily podcast in place, the parent company is making further progress in trying to capitalize on the Times’ global renown. Now, The Times can correctly stake a claim to being more than a mere broadsheet — and dude, that term sounds so hopelessly 20th century!
Of course, The Times wants The Weekly to do well, too, and not just do good.
The company has made a shrewd business decision to partner with the Hulu streaming service, immediately giving The Times a passport to the modern methods of communications. (The Weekly can also be seen on Sunday nights on the FX cable channel.)
The kinds of young, well-informed people that The Times is targeting like to stream. The company is adhering to the first rule of marketing: Give the people what they want.
Today, media companies are looking for every competitive edge. They’re searching for ways to turn a profit and make a case for their relevance. The Weekly gives give the Times the opportunity to re-brand itself as a swinging, 21st-century media dynamo.
The Times sees more growth potential in online subscribers than the straphangers who have loyally read the print newspaper every day. Any growth-obsessed entity would feel the same way.
Then there is the subliminal benefit of this high-quality show, which has no partisan point of view. The Weekly serves as an antidote to all the times President Trump, hoping to rally his media-bashing base of voters, yelps (dishonestly) about “fake news” and proclaims that The Times is a treasonous enemy of the people.
Learn How to Be GreatI hope that journalism schools incorporate The Weekly into their lessons. Professors can implore their students to understand and follow the precepts of these riveting episodes. By watching The Weekly, young people can learn about how to be great journalists by paying attention to such ideas as context and news analysis.
For decades, people have waited for a program to come along that could rival CBS’ informative series, 60 Minutes, which each Sunday evening gives viewers a refresher course in the craft of storytelling.
Now, thanks to The Weekly, we have one.