Scripps News Creates New Longform Unit to Expand Documentary Programming

By Mark Mwachiro 

Scripps News is creating a new long-form unit as the news network looks to expand its documentary programming.

The free-to-air network, rebranded from Newsy to Scripps News on Jan. 1, wants this unit to produce cinematic offerings for its own air and distribution partners.

Leading that effort will be Zach Toombs, who has been promoted from deputy director of programs to director of long-form. He will oversee the network’s documentary programming and report to Ethan Nelson, Scripps News’ head of program development.

The network says that it has added new-full time staff to this new unit and that this staff is compromised of journalists with experience on shows such as CNN’s This Is Life with Lisa Ling, Showtime’s Vice and Comedy Central’s Klepper.

Scripps News chief Kate O’Brian said in a statement, “Scripps is proud to be expanding our award-winning documentary programming. Not only is the content engaging, but this kind of compelling long-form broadcast journalism is essential to keeping viewers informed and enlightened.”

Toombs added, “At a time when the ethical lines of documentary production are increasingly blurred, we’re keeping journalism and the journalistic process at the center of our work.” He continues by saying, “Our mission is to create documentaries and series that inform, entertain, and build trust with our viewers.”

Some planned documentaries include:

April 2, “In Real Life: Crypto Crash”
What was behind the collapse of crypto giant FTX? And what does it say about digital currencies, celebrity endorsements, and the collision of tech and finance? Insider accounts and creative animation take viewers beyond the headlines.

April 16, “In Real Life: Next Gen Stunts”
A new generation of Hollywood stunt workers is changing the industry from the ground up. Featuring the stunt team behind “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” this documentary shows the behind-the-scenes reality for a new crop of stunt workers making Hollywood’s biggest hits.

May 7, Scripps News Showcase, “No Greater Love”
An Army chaplain looks at combat deployment in Afghanistan and the various struggles that returning soldiers face in this award-winning documentary film.

May 14, “In Real Life: Ukrainian Sniper”
A Ukrainian sniper navigates a warzone and a pregnancy, creating a space for more women on the frontlines.

May 21, “In Real Life: Voices of Nature”
Artificial intelligence opens up new possibilities for scientists communicating with animals — from sending messages to elephants on the plains of Kenya to mimicking honey bees and bat sounds.

This new long-form unit builds off the continuous success of its documentaries, such as,

“Scripps News Showcase” (formerly known as “Newsy Docs Presents”) is a showcase of documentary films that introduce viewers to captivating characters and impactful issues. Season 4 of “Scripps News Showcase” will premiere on March 26 and will feature originally produced projects and documentaries from independent filmmakers.

“In Real Life” is a documentary series that dives deep into a different topic in each episode. Season 4 of “In Real Life” will premiere on April 2.

“Next Level,” an original series that dives into the real-world influence of gaming — from its impact on technology and entertainment to politics and culture at large. Season 2 of “Next Level” will premiere this fall.

“Bellingcat,” a series that brings viewers open-source visual investigations that use satellite imagery, social media, and online tools to shed light on international conflict — from tracking weapon supplies to debunking government claims. This Emmy-nominated series is a partnership between Scripps News and the investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat.

Interestingly enough, it seems as though internally produced long-form programming is back in fashion as CNN, this morning, announced a new long-form program airing on Sunday nights.

The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper will feature a collection of unique and immersive single-subject, one-hour episodes from CNN’s long-form storytelling team.