‘Retro Report’ – Teaching history’s lessons

Seeing current events through the prism of the past

Celeste Headlee of “Retro Report on PBS” Monday and Tuesday

Q: You do a lot of the then-and-now kind of positioning of current event subjects. Can you talk more about that?

A:  Yeah. We don’t see it as a then‑and‑now thing. We see it as a connective string of events. So one of the ways I like to describe it is if you’ve all seen the very popular historians on Twitter? Basically, what we do is you take a breaking news story and you say – we try to say, “Wait. Before you say what your opinion is on this, let’s take you back to where this started.” And sometimes that’s two decades ago, sometimes it’s 100 years ago. And then we walk you forward all the way through history to where we are again. And by the time you get back to today, I’m pretty sure you might have changed your mind on what you think is really going on and what you think about it; that it’s a spectrum. Not, “This happened then, and it’s happening again.” But, “This started then, and it’s still going on now.”

Q: When did you folks start to realize that you and your colleague Andy Borowitz worked together really well, and you had a much nicer chemistry than just two talking heads put together? 

A:  I don’t think it was five minutes. … Pretty immediately, yeah. And I think, you know, at that point, we weren’t chosen as the hosts yet. But as soon as we finished that, Kyra (Darnton, the executive producer) and Bonnie (Bertram, a producer) both came up and said, “OK. So welcome to ‘Retro Report.’ “

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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