Alternate Forms Available
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Firing Line (Television program) broadcast records
Date (inclusive): 1966-1999
Collection Number: 80040
Hoover Institution Library and Archives
Language of Material:
190 manuscript boxes, 218 oversize boxes, 3 card file boxes, 1 motion picture film,
352 linear feet of videotapes
(948.3 linear feet)
The Firing Line broadcast records include videotapes
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
select records also available at
Hoover Institution Library & Archives
Buckley, William F., Jr.,
Southern Educational Communications
The collection is open for research; materials must be requested in advance via our reservation system. If there are audiovisual
or digital media material in the collection, they must be reformatted before providing access.
For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.
[Identification of item], Firing Line (Television program) broadcast records, [Box number],
Hoover Institution Library & Archives.
Acquired by the Hoover Institution Library & Archives in 1980, with a large increment acquired in
Alternate Forms 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
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
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
(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
staff member Linda Bridges, included in box 1.
Scope and Content of Collection
The collection contains the records of the
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.
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
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.
Firing Line are both typewritten and printed.
Also included among transcripts are two productions hosted by William F. Buckley Jr. that
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
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.
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
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
(see box 7).
Audiovisual File includes videorecordings, sound recordings,
and motion picture film.
Sound recordings contain sound tracks of the early
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 Library & Archives Reference Services at
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
United States--Foreign relations--20th century.
United States--Politics and government--20th century.