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Register of the Firing Line (Television Program) broadcast records
80040  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Accruals
  • Alternate Forms Available
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Title: Firing Line (Television program) broadcast records
    Date (inclusive): 1966-1999
    Collection Number: 80040
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 189 manuscript boxes, 218 oversize boxes, 3 card file boxes, 1 motion picture film, 352 linear feet of videotapes (948.0 linear feet)
    Abstract: The Firing Line broadcast records include videotapes from the Firing Line television show, as well as sound recordings, administrative and speaker files, program research files, photographs, transcripts, and other materials from the show. The types of program research materials available for each program are listed in the Episode Guide. The Episode Guide also includes a summary and guest list for each episode, as well as a link to the episode details page on Hoover's digital collections website. When applicable, links for purchasing full-length episodes and the availability of special order DVDs are also included. Digital copies of transcripts and some videorecordings also available at http://digitalcollections.hoover.org. 
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Contributor: Buckley, William F., Jr., 1925-2008.
    Contributor: Southern Educational Communications Association

    Access

    Collection is open for research. Digital copies of transcripts and some videorecordings also available at http://digitalcollections.hoover.org. 
    Use copies of some videos in this collection are available for immediate access. To listen to sound recordings or to view other videos or films during your visit, please contact the Archives at least two working days before your arrival. We will then advise you of the accessibility of the material you wish to see or hear. Please note that not all audiovisual material is immediately accessible.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Firing Line (Television program) broadcast records, [Box number], Hoover Institution Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives in 1980, with a large increment acquired in 2001.

    Accruals

    Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find the collection in Stanford University's online catalog at http://searchworks.stanford.edu/  . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in the online catalog is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

    Alternate Forms Available

    Digital copies of transcripts and some videorecordings also available at http://digitalcollections.hoover.org. 

    Historical Note

    With 1,505 installments over 33 years, Firing Line is the longest-running public-affairs show with a single host, William F. Buckley Jr., in television history.
    Firing Line kept substantially the same basic format throughout its run, but with certain variations.
    (1) It began as an hour-long show for commercial television (i.e., with time subtracted for commercial breaks), syndicated by WOR in New York City.
    In 1971, under the auspices of the Southern Educational Communications Association (SECA), it moved to public television and became a full hour. This move is reflected in a numbering change in the programs: shows numbered 1 through 240 were on commercial television; the SECA series then begins with s0001, taped on May 26, 1971. The WOR shows were numbered according to the order in which they were taped; the SECA shows were numbered according to the order in which they were first broadcast.
    In 1988 the length of the regular shows was changed to a half-hour.
    (2) Starting in 1978, interspersed among the regular shows are occasional specials and two-hour formal debates, with opening statements, cross-examination, and closing statements. The debates were initially numbered as regular shows (the first Firing Line Debate was s0306, although a debate sponsored by Columbia College's Debate Council was filmed as shows s0296 and s0297 a few weeks earlier). Beginning in 1986, a separate numbering system was instituted for Firing Line Specials (with the number prefaced by the letters FLS). (Note: Debates listed as "Part I" and "Part II" were shown on consecutive weeks in the regular time slot, rather than being shown all at once in a special two-hour time slot.)
    Starting with S0961 in March of 1993, the formal debate would often be followed by two or more shows in which roughly the same participants were released from the debate format for informal discussion.
    (3) Over the years, Buckley and his producer, Warren Steibel, used various methods of bringing an extra perspective to the discussion. In the early years there would often be a panel of three questioners--sometimes students, sometimes adults.
    Starting in 1977 there would often be a single "examiner," who would play a larger part in the proceedings than the panel of questioners had typically done. The examiners who appeared most frequently were Jeff Greenfield, Michael Kinsley, Harriet Pilpel, and Mark Green.
    In 1988, when the show went to half an hour, the examiner was eliminated, but there was often a "moderator," whose role was similar to that of the moderator in a formal debate. The moderator would introduce both host and guest, and then ask the opening question. The moderator appearing most frequently was Michael Kinsley. Some early programs included a person called a "chairman," who functioned like a moderator.
    (4) Beginning with show 171, in October of 1969, approximately twice a year the tables would be turned, with a panel of questioners putting Buckley "on the firing line."
    Source: Preface to the program catalogue compiled by Firing Line staff member Linda Bridges, included in box 1.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection contains the records of the Firing Line television series, which was hosted by William F. Buckley Jr. Materials include the original broadcast videotapes from Firing Line, as well as transcripts, photographs, sound recordings, program research materials, and other materials. The types of materials available for each program vary.
    The collection is organized into three series: Episode Guide, Production Materials File, and Audiovisual File.
    The Episode Guide is arranged by show number and includes the title, episode summary, and guest names for each show. Numbers that are followed by an "R" are repeat broadcasts of the same program, while numbers followed by an "E" are edited repeat broadcasts. When applicable, links for purchasing full-length episodes and the availability of special order DVDs are also included. The Episode Guide also lists the supporting documentation for each program: background files, publicity files, and transcripts. Supporting documentation varies by program.
    Background files include program research materials such as clippings, correspondence, transcripts, histories, press summaries, and printed matter, as well as collected materials on speakers and their appearances on Firing Line.
    Publicity files are available for public television shows produced by SECA and contain materials such as photographs, negatives, slides, transcripts, newsletters, and other materials. The types of materials available for each show vary.
    Transcripts of Firing Line are both typewritten and printed. Also included among transcripts are two productions hosted by William F. Buckley Jr. that were not Firing Line programs. The shows have been designated as 000a and 000b. These programs are included in the Episode Guide and the transcripts are located in box 159. Downloadable transcripts for most Firing Line programs are available on Hoover's digital collections website and can be accessed through the links that accompany each program entry in the Episode Guide.
    The Production Materials File includes administrative files and speaker and research files. Administrative files document the creation of the program. Files contain a catalogue of transcripts; Firing Line guests' topic lists; programs lists; special debates lists; correspondence with prominent politicians, economists, and scientists; and viewer comments and suggestions. Press releases, newsletters, newspaper clippings, and files on William F. Buckley Jr. and Warren Steibel, Firing Line's producer-director, are also included. Photographs, negatives, and slides of William F. Buckley Jr. individually and with the guests on his shows complete the records.
    Speaker and research files include clippings, correspondence, transcripts, histories, press summaries, and printed matter, as well as other collected materials on speakers and their appearances on Firing Line. Not every show or speaker is represented with a file. The original order of the files was retained, and they are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the speaker. Speakers who made multiple appearances may have several files. The William F. Buckley Jr. book On the Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures (Random House, New York, 1989) contains an alphabetical list of guests who appeared on Firing Line (see box 7).
    The Audiovisual File includes videorecordings, sound recordings, and motion picture film.
    Sound recordings contain sound tracks of the early Firing Line television shows on open reel tapes and compact sound cassettes.
    Videorecordings include the original broadcast videotapes from Firing Line. Many videotapes have been reformatted to more durable media; additional reformatting depends on funding. Priority for reformatting is assigned to the most endangered videotapes and those programs in highest demand from viewers. Reformatted programs can be viewed on Hoover's digital collections website or on-site in the reading room, or purchased from Amazon. videotapes of programs that have not been reformatted cannot be viewed at this time. Please contact the Hoover Institution Archives at hoover_visuals@stanford.edu for more information.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Conservatism.
    United States--Foreign relations--20th century.
    United States--Politics and government--20th century.
    Video tapes.