July 27, 2005 18:17 ET

FRONTLINE/World Web Site Converging Online and Broadcast Journalism

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- July 27, 2005 -- Breaking the conventional rules of TV news production, last night for the first time a story developed entirely on the FRONTLINE/World Web site aired on television. The story "Nuclear Underground," about what U.S. officials are calling the biggest case of nuclear smuggling they have ever uncovered, originated as a series of investigations on the FRONTLINE/World Web site and grew into a television special report on PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. By developing the story online, the FRONTLINE/World Web staff continues to close the gap between online and broadcast media, creating a single destination for video, audio, and magazine-style feature journalism from around the world.

Reported by Mark Schapiro, "Nuclear Underground" began as a collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and Mother Jones magazine that developed into a four-part Web series including distinct print, audio, and streaming video chapters -- a true case of media convergence. The NewsHour version also appears on the FRONTLINE/World Web site at

"We have always tried to provide visitors with a dynamic online experience, offering high-quality streaming video of all our broadcast stories," says FRONTLINE/World series editor Stephen Talbot. "What's exciting now is that with our new 'Rough Cut' series of weekly Web videos, we are originating stories online. Our Web site is becoming the place where we develop and shape our broadcast stories."

The "Nuclear Underground" unravels a plot by a Pakistani businessman to import nuclear weapons triggers from a U.S. manufacturer via a middleman in South Africa. Commerce Department officials in Washington tell FRONTLINE/World correspondent Mark Schapiro it is one of the biggest cases of a nuclear black market deal they have ever encountered.

The story began unfolding on the FRONTLINE/World Web site last March with video clips and an article, "The Middleman," which appeared online and later in print in the May/June issue of Mother Jones magazine. In Cape Town, South Africa, CIR editorial director Mark Schapiro uncovered the story of Asher Karni, an Israeli businessman and admitted middleman in an international scheme to export 200 "triggered spark gaps" to Pakistan. Triggered spark gaps are a dual-use technology that can be used both to power sophisticated medical equipment and to detonate nuclear weapons.

In April, Schapiro continued his investigation of the case with a 16-minute video, "The Double Life of Asher Karni," filmed and produced by FRONTLINE/World's Cassandra Herrman. In May, the Web site published key e-mail communications in the federal government's indictment of Karni, and in June presented a "radio story" in which Web visitors can listen to the telephone interview between Schapiro and Karni's client in Islamabad, Humayun Khan. The NewsHour version is a distillation and culmination of these earlier reports, including new interviews with U.S. Commerce Department officials pursuing the case.

In addition to the "Nuclear Underground" report, FRONTLINE/World's new weekly "Rough Cut" series has recently featured original Web videos including "The Women's Kingdom" by reporter Xiaoli Zhou about a matriarchal society in a remote corner of southwest China -- a society whose reputation for "free love" is drawing tens of thousands of Chinese and Western tourists. Also featured recently: "Dark Shadows" by video journalist Joe Rubin about the legacy of war in Serbia and Bosnia; "Cursed by the Gods" by reporters Jonathan Jones and Krista Mahr exploring the overlapping tragedies of civil war and the tsunami on the island of Sri Lanka; and "An Exile's Return" in which Karzan Sherabayani, an Iraqi Kurdish exile living in London, returns to his hometown in Kirkuk to see if Kurds there want to separate from Iraq.

Launched in May 2002 to accompany the broadcast debut of FRONTLINE/World on PBS, the FRONTLINE/World Web site has garnered critical acclaim for its original online reporting, including the prestigious General Excellence Award from the Online Journalism Awards in 2002. For three years in a row, the FRONTLINE/World Web site has been an Online Journalism Award finalist, as well as a three-time Webby award nominee for best TV Web site. Featuring a mix of fresh voices, unreported stories, and interactive storytelling, the site offers visitors an opportunity to step outside their surroundings and explore "stories from a small planet" -- stories in which reporters take viewers on a journey of discovery -- from music in Iceland to farmers growing "fair trade" coffee in Guatemala, from behind the DMZ in North Korea to the UN peacekeepers in Liberia.

The "Rough Cut" reports are the latest addition to a robust Web site that includes an archive of full-length streaming video of each televised broadcast; an award-winning series of "Fellows" reports presenting outstanding work from a new generation of graduate students in journalism; and a blog with story updates and dispatches from FRONTLINE/World contributors and colleagues around the world.

One recent blog post featured the notorious video showing Serb soldiers executing six civilian men during the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims. Launched to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica war crimes, it was the first time that a substantial clip of this video had been made available to a Web audience in the United States. FRONTLINE/World obtained the video from journalists in Serbia, where it was broadcast on TV and stirred a soul-searching national debate. The tape is now evidence in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Major funding provided by ABB Ltd., The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and through PBS viewers.

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