Alternative Forms of Material Available
Scope and Content of Collection
Firing Line (Television Program) Broadcast Records,
Date (inclusive): 1966-1999
Collection Number: 80040
Hoover Institution Archives
Language of Material:
189 manuscript boxes, 218 oversize boxes, 3 card file boxes, 1 motion picture film, 352 linear feet of video tapes
(948 linear feet)
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, transcripts, sound recordings, photographs
and motion picture film. A searchable database describing all
programs is available at
Hoover Institution Archives
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.
For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.
[Identification of item],
Firing Line (Television Program) Broadcast Records, [Box number], Hoover Institution Archives.
Acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives in 2002.
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
. 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.
Alternative Forms of Material Available
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
The collection is organized into six series: Administrative files, Speaker files, Program files, Sound recordings, Motion
picture film, 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.
Speaker and Research 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, or topics of shows. Some files include the transcript of the show although not every show or speaker is represented
with a file. The original order of the files was retained, and are generally 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 show number. Numbers that are followed by an "R" are repeat broadcasts of the same program,
while numbers followed by an "E" are edited repeat broadcasts. Program files include three types of files: Background files,
Publicity files, and Transcripts.
Background 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
Firing Line shows.
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.
Firing Line are both typewritten and printed. Some transcripts are available for immediate download on the Hoover Institution website.
Also included in transcripts are 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 in box 159.
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.
The collection is organized into six series: Administrative files, Speaker and Research files, Program files, Sound recordings,
Motion picture film, and Video recordings.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Buckley, William F. (William Frank), 1925-
Southern Educational Communications Association
United States--Foreign relations--20th century.
United States--Politics and government--20th century.
United States--Politics and government.