NEW YORK — CBS News is dusting off one of the most storied brands in its history: the documentary series "CBS Reports."
It will use the format for several stories on how the economic meltdown is affecting children.
The network will report extensively on the topic for a week in May on its morning and evening newscasts, on "Face the Nation" and on its Web site. The effort was signaled on Wednesday when "The Early Show" covered the exit from New York of medical vans outfitted by the Children's Health Fund and bound for Detroit.
"We haven't done a real division-wide initiative for a while and it was time to do it," Sean McManus, CBS News president, said.
So far, what's missing is what "CBS Reports" actually was: a prime-time documentary. McManus said he didn't think there was enough room in CBS' schedule during a May "sweeps" month to reinstate the program but he hasn't ruled out asking his bosses for time.
As the first issue examined under the old brand, children of the recession has been a highly covered economy topic, McManus said. The importance of the issue was made clear to him last week when he met with the co-founder of the Children's Health Fund.
"It occurred to me it was the one area that hasn't been given a lot of attention and, in the long run, it may be the longest-lasting effect of the recession," he said.
This Saturday's "CBS Evening News" will be broadcast from Detroit after the medical vans arrive, he said. Other CBS platforms are getting to work on their own stories, although it's not clear whether "60 Minutes" will be involved in coverage about children of the recession.
CBS' rivals have similarly tried to focus intensely on one story. For example, ABC News devoted a week each spring for a couple of years to extensive reporting in Iraq about what the war has meant to that country's citizens. NBC News has played a part in its parent General Electric's companywide emphasis on going green.
"CBS Reports" aired as a regular prime-time documentary from 1959 until 1971, with Edward R. Murrow's "Harvest of Shame" report about migrant workers one of its most remembered editions. After it ended as a regular series, "CBS Reports" lived into the 1990s with periodic documentaries.
Traditional documentaries have all but disappeared from prime-time television, as they're not considered competitive in the ratings with entertainment programming. Except for "60 Minutes," most prime-time news programming tends to be true crime yarns or sociology experiments.