The Latest News…from 1861

Imagine Rachel Maddow covering the Civil War and you have THE MASON DIXON REPORT, William Rabkin’s smart and funny new web series, starring Dan Gilvezan.

Bill writes today on the History News Network site about how the series came about.

…one reason why so many Americans have such little interest in history [is that] they can’t make a connection with the people who the books tell them lived lives so completely different from their own.

That disconnect is what led the brilliant producer Steve Ecclesine and me to create our original web series, The Mason Dixon Report.  We’d been watching the parade of Civil War programming, and while the shows ranged from superb to, um, less so, they had one alienating element in common:  

They all insisted that the war was History.

In fact, the best of them, Ken Burns’ massive documentary series, was the most guilty of this, full of slow pans across battered photographs and self-consciously old-timey music in the background screaming out in every frame that this was an event that could only have happened to those other people who weren’t anything like we are today.

We wanted to strip the History out of the Civil War and drop our audience into the middle of it.  To give people the sense of what it’s like to live in a time when you don’t know whether or not your country will survive another day.

The conceit of our web series is simple:  Cable news existed in 1861, and this was the flagship series.  And it turns out that nineteenth century cable news looks a lot like today’s.  We’ve got a host who gets the news of the day from our regular reporter, and then turns to a rotating panel of pundits, politicians, and consultants to explore the meaning of what just happened.

It’s a lot of fun and think you’ll enjoy it. I certainly am!

Mason Dixon Report Coming Attractions from ron schneider on Vimeo.

1 thought on “The Latest News…from 1861”

  1. I used to watch Edward R. Murrow’s “You are There” — same concept, except on national television. Today, however, coverage of Paul Revere’s ride would have him warning the British.


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