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Inventory of the Firing Line (Television Program) Broadcast Records
80040  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Collection Summary

    Title: Firing Line (Television Program) Broadcast Records
    Dates: 1966-1999
    Collection Number: 80040
    Collection Size: 189 manuscript boxes, 218 oversize boxes, 3 card file boxes, 352 linear feet of video recordings (948 linear feet)
    Repository: Hoover Institution Archives
    Stanford, California 94305-6010
    Abstract: Videotape film and transcripts of television series hosted by William F. Buckley and produced by the Southern Educational Communications Association, relating to conservative thought, especially in the United States, and to American foreign and domestic policy. Also includes background research files, administrative files, sound recordings and photographs. A searchable database describing all Firing Line programs is available at http://hoohila.stanford.edu/firingline/ .
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Languages: English

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Collection is open for research.
    The Hoover Institution Archives only allows access to copies of audiovisual items. To listen to sound recordings or to view 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 2002.

    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 Socrates at http://library.stanford.edu/webcat . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in Socrates is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

    Alternative Forms of Material Available

    Firing Line transcripts are available for immediate download on the Hoover Institution website at http://hoohila.stanford.edu/firingline/ .

    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 S1, 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 debates--formal debates, with opening statements, cross-examination, and closing statements. The debates were initially numbered as regular shows (the first Firing Line Debate was S306, although a debate sponsored by Columbia College's Debate Council was filmed as shows S296 and S297 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 S961, 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. For programs discovered to have a chairman, he or she has been designated in the Hoover Institution Archive's online database of Firing Line programs by including the chairman's name in the guest field and the word "chairman" in the biography field. Some early programs had a three- or four-person panel. When located, these have been designated in the same database by including the names of persons in guest fields and the word "panelist" in the respective biography fields.
    (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 television series hosted by William F. Buckley and mainly produced by the Southern Educational Communications Association, relating to conservative thought, especially in the United States, and to American foreign and domestic policy. Material includes background research files, administrative files, photographs, videotapes and transcripts.
    A searchable database describing all Firing Line programs is available at http://hoohila.stanford.edu/firingline/ .
    The collection is organized into six series: Administrative files, Background materials, Publicity files, Transcripts, Sound recordings, and Video recordings.
    The 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, as well as viewer comments and suggestions. Press releases, newsletters, newspaper clippings, and files on William F. Buckley and Warren Steibel, the Firing Line producer-director, are also included. Photographs, negatives, and slides of William F. Buckley individually and with the guests on his shows complete the records.
    The Background materials contain two sets of files: Speaker files and Program files. Both types of files include preparation materials, such as clippings, correspondence, transcripts, histories, press summaries, and printed matter, as well as other collected materials on speakers and their appearances on the Firing Line shows. Some files include the transcript of the show although not every show or speaker is represented with a file.
    The Speaker files are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the speaker. Speakers who made multiple appearances may have several files. The William F. Buckley book On the Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures (Random House, New York, 1989) contains an alphabetical list of guests on Firing Line (see box 7).
    Program files are arranged by the type of show: public television shows, special programs, and debates, and then by show number.
    Publicity files cover the Public television shows under the auspices of the SECA, and contain materials such as still photographs, negatives, and slides, as well as transcripts, newsletters, and other documents, although the type of material available on a particular program varies.
    Transcripts of the television shows are arranged by the type of show, and then by show number. Some Firing Line transcripts are available for immediate download on the Hoover Institution website.
    There are two productions hosted by William F. Buckley that were not Firing Line programs. The shows have been designated as 000a and 000b. These programs are included in the data base and have been placed at the beginning of the Firing Line transcripts.
    Sound recordings contain sound tracks of the early Firing Line television shows on open reel tapes and compact sound cassettes.
    Video recordings include videotapes of most shows in a variety of formats. Some shows are recorded on videotape formats that are approaching obsolescence. The Hoover Institution is gradually preserving and transferring the shows to a modern format. Many videotapes have been digitized; additional reformatting depends on funding. Priority for transfer is given to the most endangered formats and to the programs most requested. Videotapes of programs that have not been reformatted are typically not available for immediate viewing. Selected programs can be viewed in the Hoover Archives reading room or purchased from Amazon.com. Please contact Hoover Institution Archives for information.

    Arrangement

    The collection is organized into six series: Administrative files, Background materials, Publicity files, Transcripts, Sound recordings, and Video recordings.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Conservatism
    United States--Politics and government.
    United States-Foreign relations-20th century
    United States-Politics and government-20th century
    Buckley, William F. (William Frank), 1925-
    Southern Educational Communications Association
    Video tapes.