Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Classic Hearst "Screen News Digest" Films Available on Internet Archive

Opening Title Card (circa 1965) for
Hearst's Screen News Digest.
Years ago, I remember that The History Channel* (before it became another tasteless "reality show" channel) showed classic Hearst Metrotone Screen News Digest short subjects during their early morning History Channel Classroom programming block.  In recent years, the vintage Screen News Digest shorts have been replaced with repackaged versions of the old History Channel program, History's Lost and Found (to fill out the commercial-free "classroom" block, just like what the network did with Screen News Digest).

The Internet Archive- along with the Bishop Dwenger High School Library has uploaded select issues of the vintage Hearst classroom newsreel series.  So far, six classic issues of Screen News Digest are available for viewing on the Internet Archive, and more editions (ranging from the 1960's through the 1970's) will appear on the site in the near future.

The series premiered in 1958, and my guess is that it was created as a response to Warner Bros.' News Magazine of the Screen-  which was a series of then-recent newsreel series that were reformatted for classroom presentation (from Warners' Pathé News unit, which was acquired by the studio in 1948- and was discontinued due to competition from television in 1956).  According to Geoff Alexander's 2010 book, Academic Films for the Classroom: A History- Hearst's classroom newsreel series was created by Jerome Foreman (who left Hearst's newsreel division in 1960 to form Allegro Productions, a company that is known for producing the Science Screen Report).

Many topics were presented throughout the series' run, consisting of current events or historical subjects. After Hearst discontinued their newsreel unit in 1967 (the same year that rival Universal Studios discontinued their long-running newsreel service), the producers of Screen News Digest relied on past stock footage from the Hearst Metrotone/News of the Day/Telenews library, in addition to new footage filmed by Hearst's television news bureaus.  The series migrated to color footage in the late 1960's, and ran until Hearst discontinued the series in the early 1980's- as videocassette recorders would replace 16mm film projectors in schools across the country.

I am very excited that the Internet Archive (in conjunction with Bishop Dwenger High School's library) is adding classic editions of the Screen News Digest series.  I just hope that they add the 1977 short, The Talking Machine: Tinfoil to LP- which commemorated the centennial of recorded sound (it was shown on The History Channel's "classroom" block many years ago).

*The History Channel (along with its sister network, A&E- which also showed the Screen News Digest shorts in the past) is a joint venture of Hearst and ABC.  Yet sadly, that channel (which has shortened its name to "History") has morphed into another boring "reality show" cable channel. Same goes for A&E (in my honest opinion).

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