Supreme Transparency

We just gave another PBS Frontline documentary the interactive treatment: interactive transcripts and videos of the 39 source interviews that went into Supreme Revenge, the Frontline documentary that aired last night, are available for anyone to peruse.

Frontline is making the source material of of its documentaries available as part of its Transparency Project.

I like the idea of making source material available for two reasons.

First, it enables anyone see the quotes that appear in the story in their original context. You can see what someone said before and after a quote. And when the interactive transcript is connected to video you can also hear how a quote was said and how a person looks when they say what they say.

Second, a documentary – or news article for that matter – is organized around a theme or story. It has to be presented in a comprehensible package. Source interviews are often much more wide-ranging than what fits in that package, partly because that’s part of the process – you ask a lot of questions in getting to what makes sense to focus on. So there’s a whole lot left on the cutting room floor and a lot of it has a lot of value. It’s great to be able to help make that more widely available.

So, in looking at the interactive interviews from Supreme Revenge, you can peruse what appeared in the film in context. For instance, here’s the full context of how Nina Totenberg described breaking the Anita Hill story.

It starts with this:

Well, all summer long, I had been getting calls about allegations that Thomas had sexually harassed staff members, or a staff member.


And you can discover a whole lot of interesting stuff that didn’t make it into the documentary.

Here’s Alan Simpson’s vivid description of what he’s doing in his post-Senate days:

So I—you know, I’m not in the Senate. I’m working on another thing to irritate the American people with the Simpson-Bowles debt limit and so on, cutting Social Security and what happened to the old people and the AARP, you know.


Meanwhile, I’ve been fairly silent recently because I’ve been working on a system designed to make computer input more efficient. I’m not nearly done, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Stay tuned for a series of blog entries about that!