“Vice News Tonight,” the nightly news show that debuted two weeks ago on HBO and aired its first major education story on Friday, is not your grandfather’s “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.” It’s not even your mother’s “MTV News” with Kurt Loder or Tabitha Soren, though it is much closer to that youth-minded offering than to any traditional network news show.
The half-hour show airs at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on HBO, and seems to consist mostly of packaged, enterprise reporting pieces rather than any sort of traditional anchor-led news fest. On Friday’s episode, there were interesting reports on voting rights for individuals with disabilities and a visually harrowing report about “roofers"—daredevilish young people who climb to the top of buildings, such as scaling TV antennas on skyscrapers.
In the middle of the show was a roughly 5-minute report about education cuts in Oklahoma, centered on the small town of Noble, where the school district is dealing with state budget cuts by having a four-day school week.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in school?” correspondent Roberto Ferdman playfully asks several middle schoolers who are sitting with him in a movie theater on a Friday, the day off school in Noble.
Ferdman tells us that one-third of school districts have cut one day of school from their schedules because of a drop in oil revenues in Oklahoma. We see the Noble superintendent, who isn’t identified by name, doing his “double duty” of directing school buses at the end of the school day.
Students spend Fridays sitting around at home, playing videogames at the library, or at day care, if their parents can afford it in the low-income community. Many of the students featured don’t seem to mind, but some parents are shown fretting about the missed day of education each week.
“How much can you really squeeze into four days?” says one mom.
Ferdman primarily features voices in Noble. It may well be that no state official would want to go on camera to explain or defend the cuts, but the piece would have benefited from the voice of an academic or someone who could talk about the long-term consequences of the four-day week.
Overall, though, “Vice News Tonight” brings big graphics, a fresh pace, and some unusual stories to its mix. So one hopes the show keeps going after education stories.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.