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MSS 277 - Alec Gifford WDSU Television Archive of New Orleans Broadcasting: Inventory

AleC Gifford WDSU Television Archive of New Orleans Broadcasting

(Mss 277)


Earl K. Long Library

University of New Orleans

July 1977





Size:                          Approximately 807 linear feet of reels of 16, 32, and 35 mm film; approximately 849 linear feet of video cassettes; approximately 3,125 35mm slides; card file; 3 linear feet of ledgers



locations:                 Chiefly New Orleans metropolitan area, Baton Rouge, and region within station’s broadcast signal.


Inclusive dates:      1948-1995


Bulk dates:              1970-1990


Summary:                Film and video of news, sports, and public affairs programs broadcast by WDSU-TV, the NBC affiliate in New Orleans, Louisiana.



collections:              Patricia Gormin Collection (Mss 306); Homer Hitt Collection of Editorial Cartoons (Mss 308); Mrs. Muffin Collection (Mss 318); WVUE-TV Channel 8 News Collection (Mss 319)


Source:                     Gift, 1996


Access:                     Availability is severely curtailed by the absence of viewing equipment and the limitations of existing finding aids.  Prospective users should be aware that many programs broadcast by WDSU are not present.


Copyright:                Permission to publish or broadcast film and/or video must be obtained in writing from WDSU-TV.  Physical rights are retained by the Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans.


Citation:                    Alec Gifford WDSU Television Archive of New Orleans Broadcasting, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans

Historical Note


            Television arrived in New Orleans in 1948, when WDSU (Channel 6) began broad­casting publicly on December 18 of that year. [1] According to producer and performer Terry Flettrich Rohe, best remem­bered as the longtime star of WDSU’s Midday, the fledgling medium had been previewed in November 1947, when “the first television anybody ever saw in New Orleans was at D. H. Holmes [department store].  Edgar Stern had just bought the station and we were getting ready to set it up.  It’s important here, they decided they would have demonstrations for people to see what—people didn’t know what television was like.” [2]  Newscaster Mel Leavitt, another member of the vanguard of Crescent City tele­vision personalities, noted that Stern held a franchise to operate one of thirty-five stations authorized to broadcast in America, [3] and thus Channel 6 was among the first in the country.  It became “a nationally recognized pacesetter in TV news reporting.” [4]  Rohe recalled in 1990 that television was regarded as “radio with . . . pictures.” [5]  No precedents existed, “so that you sort of made up your own methods and ideas and ways, because you didn’t know how it was supposed to be done so you just had to try this way and try and solve it.” [6]


            When television broadcasting was in its infancy, the Federal Communications Commis­sion modeled the organization, financing, and regulation of the new industry after that of radio, which served listeners nationwide.  “Thus local TV stations came to serve as the infra­structure of the industry.  Local stations negotiated the role TV would play in their communities, co­ordinating the new medium to local rhythms, interests, sentiments, and ideologies.  They have contributed immeasurably to the growth, allure, and impact of television in the United States. . . . [I]n every city and market, local stations worked to invent, adapt, and expand what television had to offer to their specific audiences.  Each station produced a great deal of its own programming, increasingly so as the television schedule expanded to include more daytime and weekend hours.  Viewers had a different relationship to the performers and personalities on local stations, a sense of accessibility and proximity that was inflected by all things regional—from speech patterns to weather systems to fashion tastes.  Station personnel tended to perform in different capacities and roles throughout the programming day—news reader at one point, talk-show host at another, children’s show performer in still another—all lending them a familiarity and informality that often proved welcome by the audience.” [7]


            Most television stations began broadcasting local newscasts as soon as they went on the air.  “Doing so provided instant evidence of community involvement and an identity amid other­wise indistinguishable fare.[8] In the early years of news reporting, Leavitt remembered, “the real studio was a remote unit. . . . And there were all kinds of stories about those remotes. . . . We would run down the street and cover damn near anything then. . . . A dog fight broke out and we would be there with a giant Greyhound.[9] By the time the station celebrated its first anniversary, it boasted engineering capabilities and equipment which were among the industry’s most modern.  Within another year, the broadcasting schedule had expanded from twenty-four hours per week to ninety-four.  “The elevated program schedule of WDSU-TV signaled the begin­ning of television’s climb to the top as the reigning medium of information and entertainment.” [10]

           When WDSU started out, “newscasts were brief and non-visual, for videotape technology, debuting in 1956, was too cumbersome to leave the studio and live news remotes were all but impossible for their cost and complexity. . . . 16 millimeter film, while an excellent local newsgathering medium in the field, was costly and required at least three and a half hours to be processed, edited, and set up for the complex process of playing it back into a live newscast. . . . Between the mid-1970s and early 1980s came a local news explosion, attributable to a synergy of technology and economics.  Technology led as Sony introduced the 3/4” video cassette recorder, a portable machine capable of recording 20 minutes on a cassette.  With it came simple and reliable editing equipment permitting the rapid assembly of stories from the field.”  Combined with the availability of compatible shoulder-borne cameras, these field recorders engendered Electronic News Gathering (ENG), which stations adopted as quickly as their finances permitted.  ENG greatly enhanced the ability to produce high-quality news programming more quickly. [11]


            According to Robert J. Donovan and Ray Scherer in Unsilent Revolution: Television News and American Public Life, 1948-1991, “Television news has been a potent and steady force for change in many fields. . . . Reuven Frank, former president of NBC News, observed, `Television news has the power to transmit the experience itself rather than information about the experience. [12]  Before any other TV station existed in New Orleans, indeed anywhere in Louisiana, WDSU transmitted experiences to its viewing audience, and, five decades later, continues to do so today.




            [1] Mark Lorando, “Lights, Camera, History!”  New Orleans Times-Picayune (May 8, 1996), p. E-1+.

            [2] Rohe, quoted by Sarah L. Robinson, “New Orleans Television: The Early Years; WDSU-TV, 1948-1965” (M.F.A. thesis, University of New Orleans, 1991), 144.

           [3] Leavitt, quoted by Sarah L. Robinson, “New Orleans Television: The Early Years; WDSU-TV, 1948-1965” (M.F.A. thesis, University of New Orleans, 1991), 182.

            [4] Lorando, “Lights, Camera, History!,” E-1.

            [5] Rohe, quoted by Robinson, “New Orleans Television,” 145.

            [6] Ibid., 147.

            [7] Museum of Broadcast Communications, Encyclopedia of Television, s.v. “Local Television,” II:966.

            [8] Museum of Broadcast Communications, Encyclopedia of Television, s.v. “News, Local and Regional,” II:1160.

            [9] Leavitt, quoted by Robinson, “New Orleans Television,” 8.

            [10] Sarah L. Robinson, “New Orleans Television: The Early Years; WDSU-TV, 1948-1965” (M.F.A. thesis, University of New Orleans, 1991), 9.

            [11] Museum of Broadcast Communications, Encyclopedia of Television, s.v. “News, Local and Regional,” II:1160.

            [12] Washington: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), x.

Container List


The collection has not been processed.  No working copies are available.

Index Terms


Gifford, Alec

Television broadcasting of news—Louisiana—New Orleans

Television programs—Louisiana—New Orleans

Television stations—Louisiana—New Orleans

WDSU-TV (Television station : New Orleans, La.)