TIME Media

One of the Most Useful iOS Apps Is Finally Back

VLC lets you play all sorts of different media

A popular video-playing app is finally back in the App Store.

VLC, the cross-platform multimedia player that plays a variety of different file types, is once again available on iOS devices after being pulled from the App Store around the time iOS 8 released in September. The app makes it easy to play format types that aren’t easily compatible with Apple devices.

In addition to the iOS version, VLC updates are rolling out for Android, Windows Phone and desktop, CNET reports. The Android version will support Android TV, while the desktop version will automatically rotate vertical videos for easier viewing. An upcoming update plans to add Chromecast support.

[CNET]


 

TIME Media

Nickelodeon Is Trying to Hook Pre-Schoolers on Streaming TV

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R. Nelson—Getty Images/Flickr RM Little girl using tablet

New service will have classic kids shows but fewer current hits

Nickelodeon is the next big television brand to throw its hat in the streaming ring.

The Viacom-owned kids’ network on Wednesday announced a new online service called Noggin, which will stream old episodes of shows such as Blue’s Clues and Little Bear for $5.99 per month. The service, available for iOS devices March 5, will also feature older shows such as Allegra’s Window and Gullah Gullah Island, as well as music videos and educational content.

Missing from the service are more recent mega-hits like Dora The Explorer. Nick says the content available on Noggin will remain “separate and distinct” from what you can watch on TV.

For what’s being offered, the price tag may be a bit high. Sesame Street now has a streaming service that costs $3.99 per month, and much of the legacy Nickelodeon content is available to Amazon Prime subscribers–along with a boatload of other features–for $99 per year, or $8.25 per month. However, Nick said it may offer Noggin to cable subscribers free of charge in the future.

TIME Media

Google’s Music Service Just Got Way More Useful

Chris Yerga, engineering director of Goo
AFP—AFP/Getty Images Chris Yerga, engineering director of Google, introduces some features of Google play during Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, at Moscone Center in San Francisco on June 27, 2012.

Google Play Music users will now be able to store up to 50,000 of their own songs for free

Google is expanding the size of its celestial jukebox.

The company announced Wednesday that users will now be able to store up to 50,000 of their own songs for free using Google Play Music, up from the previous limit of 20,000 songs. The songs, which can be uploaded directly from a user’s iTunes collection or other local music folders, can be played on iOS devices, Android devices and the web.

This service shouldn’t be confused with Google Play Music All Access, Google’s Spotify competitor that lets users stream more than 30 million songs from the cloud for $10 per month. However, the two services can work in tandem, so a user can mix songs from the All Access library with tracks they’ve uploaded directly from their own files.

TIME Media

Bill O’Reilly and the Truthiness Defense

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno - Season 22
Paul Drinwater—NBC/Getty Images Talk show host Bill O'Reilly on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' on Nov. 18, 2013.

For the Fox host, his most important difference with Brian Williams may be what his audience expects of him.

From the sound of things, Bill O’Reilly’s enforcers are going to have a busy time. When David Corn first made the case, in Mother Jones, that O’Reilly had inflated his war-correspondent record–implying that he’d seen combat “in the Falklands” when he covered it for CBS from Buenos Aires–O’Reilly said that Corn deserved to end up “in the kill zone.” When a New York Times reporter did a follow-up on the story, he told her that if he didn’t like what she reported, “I am coming after you with everything I have. You can take that as a threat.”

What that threat constitutes from O’Reilly is unclear, though in the past his producer has tracked down and camera-ambushed a string of journalists who’d dared criticize Bill-O. And Fox News in general has a not-so-secret reputation of strong-arming reporters who cover the media, as the late David Carr chronicled in 2008, when Fox and Friends aired altered photographs of two New York Times staffers in payback for unflattering coverage.

Maybe the threats will scare journalists off O’Reilly’s trail; or maybe making them so brazenly will rally more reporters to the story. Either way, if O’Reilly is not likely to suffer Brian Williams’ fate, it has less to do with the difference in their stories and more to do with the fact that O’Reilly is not Brian Williams: he’s an entirely different kind of journalist. His audience has a different relationship with him, based not on veracity but loyalty, not information but identification.

Like Williams, O’Reilly told stories about his reporting exploits that seemed to imply they were more dangerous than they were. There were differences in the particulars and the aftermath, though. Williams apologized for saying he was traveling in a helicopter that was hit by an RPG in Iraq when it was not. O’Reilly doubled down on his statements. In his telling, it became a matter of whether you think having reported “in the Falklands” is naturally assumed as meaning “in Buenos Aires at the time of the Falkland Islands war” and whether a violent protest equals a “combat situation.”

And that kind of argument–a debate over interpretation, spin, the motives of his critics–is the friendliest of grounds for O’Reilly to argue in front of his audience. Hell, it’s precisely what you watch O’Reilly for: not for news headlines but for a worldview, not for what happened but what it means–and what it means that your ideological adversaries see it as something else.

It’s no accident that O’Reilly was a chief inspiration for Stephen Colbert’s character on The Colbert Report, for whom he invented the concept of “truthiness”: that what your gut tells you is more important than what the literal facts say, that how the news feels is more important than what the news is.

Once you’re inside that No-Spin Zone, all arguments become political arguments. And any argument can be considered, and attacked, with the tactics of political ones: ad hominems, consider-the-source rebuttals, somebody-else-did-something-bad-once-too rebuttals, appeals to loyalty and the sense of persecution.

Like so: the original claim against O’Reilly came from Mother Jones. Mother Jones is a liberal magazine; therefore its argument is invalid and we don’t even need to consider it further. If anyone follows up on the report–CNN, the New York Times–they’re also liberal, because all the media outside Fox is liberal, therefore we can disregard them too. If anyone else joins in, they are by definition also liberal because they’re attacking Bill-O, QED.

The fact that charges exist becomes the best defense against the charges. Not only that, they only reinforce that O’Reilly is right: he has the right enemies, he must be on the right side. The liberal media claims Bill lied about being in a war zone? Well, what is a “war zone” anyway? Look at the footage he showed of demonstrators in the streets! That’s combat enough for me! Case closed.

It’s almost magic.

This is a perfect example, really, of the difference between a news host whose reputation is based on objectivity and one whose reputation is based on subjectivity. You can argue what Williams or O’Reilly deserves, but in the end NBC and Fox alike operate first out of practicality and self-preservation. And where it was devastating for Williams to have his veracity challenged in public, for O’Reilly to have this battle is branding.

That’s not to say O’Reilly can’t be harmed by future developments. You don’t make threats if you’re not concerned about something.

But as it stands, Bill O’Reilly’s audience is his best line of defense. When people watch you because they want to believe, they’ll do most of the work for you.

TIME conflict

What Actually Happened in the Falklands, With or Without Bill O’Reilly

Apr. 19, 1982, cover of TIME
Cover Credit: TODD SCHORR The Apr. 19, 1982, cover of TIME, featuring the war in the Falkland Islands

The conflict between Britain and Argentina took the world by surprise

After more than three decades out of the spotlight, the Falkland Islands are back in the news, this time because of controversy over a claim that Bill O’Reilly has made misleading statements about his time covering the conflict that took place there in 1982.

O’Reilly says that he has always been honest about the fact that his reporting on the war was from Buenos Aires, not the islands themselves—as TIME reported back then, only 27 British reporters were able to get there—but Mother Jones magazine contends that his statement that he reported from active war zones suggests otherwise. The controversy continued Tuesday as O’Reilly further insisted that he never misled anyone.

But what exactly did happen in the Falklands?

In 1982, the archipelago had long been home to little else besides shepherds, sheep, 10 million penguins and a history of diplomatic disputes.

The islands had first been seen by British eyes in the 16th century, were claimed by the U.K. in the 17th century, went to Spain in the 18th century and back to Britain in 1833. Meanwhile, Argentina, which became independent from Spain during the period of Spanish control of the Falklands, claimed the right to the land—they had gained the Malvinas, their name for the islands, when Spain left, they argued—even over the objections of many who actually lived on the Islands. Argentina’s military ruler, General Galtieri, hoped to boost his own popularity by scoring a win in the islands. The locals, largely descended from Brits, did not support leaving the shelter of the British crown (which held them as a dependency, not an independent member of the commonwealth) for then-unstable but nearby rule.

In early April of 1982, the Falklands (and, by extension, the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands) were defended by a few dozen British marines already on the islands when thousands of Argentine troops suddenly swept in. In fighting that lasted mere hours, the South American nation seized the territories from the U.K., which responded by breaking off diplomatic relations and, via the U.N., demanding that Argentina withdraw. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her government promised that, were the request denied, the islands would be retaken by force. And, when the British navy arrived in the area—to enforce a blockade and evacuate the invaders—that result began to seem more and more likely.

Even as war loomed, TIME observed that the spectacle was “out of nowhere, it seemed, or out of another century.” One of the world’s major powers, no longer famous for its empire, and a country on another continent, fighting a sudden territorial war over a couple of islands? Just plain weird. Nonetheless, the pride of two nations was on the line, and citizens on both sides supported action.

President Ronald Reagan was unable to mediate a diplomatic solution and, at the end of the month, thousands of Argentine troops prepared for a confrontation. Rather than landing in the Falklands directly, the British forces landed on South Georgia Island, one of the Falklands’ dependencies, to the east of the main archipelago. South Georgia was quickly captured, bringing the two sides within striking distance.

By May, Britain’s Defense Secretary announced that the nation’s aircraft had taken action “to enforce the total exclusion zone and to deny the Argentines use of the airport at Port Stanley,” the Falklands capital. Military targets in the Falklands were bombed and other nations, including the U.S., ended their neutrality in the conflict. (The U.S. sided with England; the Soviets would eventually speak up for Argentina.) Fighting increased, as did patriotic support on both home fronts, even as the costs began to climb.

As the second month of fighting drew to an end, there was nothing quaint about it. As TIME reported:

Meanwhile, preparations for an all-out war over the Falklands continued. To the skirl of bagpipes, some 3,500 Scottish, Welsh and Gurkha troops last week boarded the hastily requisitioned Queen Elizabeth 2 to begin a ten-day journey to the South Atlantic. They were intended to join some 4,000 other British soldiers in the potential invasion force aboard the 20-ship battle squadron surrounding the islands. British warships kept up a harassing bombardment of the Falklands coastline, while Sea Harrier jets sank an Argentine trawler, possibly a spy ship, that was discovered deep within the blockade zone. Argentine warplanes flew a retaliatory sortie against the blockading fleet; London said that three of the aircraft were downed, and the Argentines damaged one British frigate in the action.

Then the British added a daring new twist to their tactics. Late Friday night, a commando force slipped ashore on Pebble Island, a slice of land practically touching West Falkland Island. Supported by naval gunfire, the raiders, who were probably ferried ashore in helicopters, attacked an airstrip and Argentine military outpost, blowing up a large ammunition dump and destroying eleven aircraft. The action was a sustained one; it was only after dawn that the commando force left the island, suffering only two minor casualties. London stressed that the operation was a “raid, not an invasion,” but the assault marked the first time that British troops had set foot on the Falklands since their departure after the Argentine invasion on April 2.

The conflict finally ended in June, after a full-on fight for Port Stanley. The death tolls had reached about 250 British troops and nearly 700 Argentine. The Argentine troops were driven from the islands, and a few days later General Galtieri was replaced, even as his country continued to assert their claim to the Falklands. In England, Thatcher’s popularity soared.

And on the islands themselves, life had changed too: the mellow home of shepherds had become a military stronghold. The military investment improved the local economy and modernized the lifestyle there but did not fully resolve the conflict. Argentina still hopes to regain the territory. A 2013 vote found that 1,513 residents wanted to remain under U.K. control. Only three people voted to leave.

Read TIME’s full coverage of the beginning of the conflict, here in the TIME Vault: Gunboats in the South Atlantic

TIME Advertising

This Ad Perfectly Captures the Horrors of New Motherhood

It's also great birth control

HelloFlo doesn’t just tackle first periods — it’s also breaking into the mom market.

The women’s health company, which scored a viral hit last year with an ad about a young girl’s “first moon party,” is back with a new campaign. In this ad, a new mom takes a break from breastfeeding and changing diapers to perform a musical about how much it sucks to have a tiny baby. “How could I let another woman walk through the terrifying abyss of motherhood without telling her the things I’d seen?” she says.

“For what it’s worth: There’s no laughter after after-birth,” she sings in a full-on Broadway style belt.

When asked if she’s worried about the success of her musical, she replies: “I have suction cups attached to my nipples, squeezing milk out of my rock-hard boobs. I fear nothing.” Once she sees HelloFlo’s new mom kit — which includes essentials like nipple cream, breast pads, lotion and Luna bars — she fears it’s so useful, it will make her musical obsolete. Until she uses it to bribe everyone to see her show.

If you’re a mom, you’ll love this. If you’re not a mom yet, it might scare you off for good.

Read next: This Video Shows Why Being a Mom Is the Hardest Job Out There

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TIME Media

Why Can’t Hollywood Tell America’s Stories?

hollywood-sign
Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Our onscreen heroes are white men. But most of us aren't

The 2015 Oscars broadcast may reflect the demographics of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters—who are overwhelmingly older Anglo men—but it won’t reflect the demographics of the rest of the country. All 20 acting nominees are Anglo, and all the directing and screenwriting nominees are male. The Academy Awards may not tell the whole story, but they certainly indicate that many American stories still aren’t being told on our screens. In advance of the Zócalo/UCLA Bunche Center “Thinking L.A.” event “Why Can’t Hollywood Look Like America?”, we asked media scholars: What are the critical and integral contemporary American stories that Hollywood is not telling?

Camille Fojas — Stories of inequality and social and economic immobility

Hollywood is an industry in pursuit of profit. It is not an open marketplace of new imaginings or ideas unless those ideas draw audiences and increase profits. That said, it has all but ignored a major social and cultural upheaval. Since the economic collapse that began in 2007, there is heightened awareness of the deepening economic inequality of U.S. culture. While Hollywood responded quickly to the economic collapse with epic tales of the cruel machinations of the big banks and their minions, it has yet to tell the story of the most economically vulnerable and those burdened by oppressive student loan and mortgage debt. It is more profitable to deliver a melodrama about malevolent banks that fits neatly into the age-old morality tales of good versus evil. We have yet to see the story of those at the bottom of the labor market—those who are out of resources, silver linings, and options. The economic crisis intensified wage stagnation and further limited opportunities for employment and upward mobility. This new scenario does not square with the Hollywood myths around the “American Dream” centered on “rags to riches” storylines. The story of inequality, of the deepening divergence between rich and poor, and social and economic immobility, is the real story of our times.

Camilla Fojas is Vincent de Paul Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies and director of Critical Ethnic Studies at DePaul University. Her newest book is Freefalling: Pop Culture and the Economic Crisis.

Priscilla Peña Ovalle — Universal stories that don’t star white actors

Hollywood trades in the spectacular, the dramatic, the titillating. Even romantic comedies usually elevate the “everyday” business of love with fantasies of wealth. To some degree, that’s OK. Audiences gravitate towards escapist films. I do. But I’d like Hollywood to tell these spectacular tales with actors who look more like contemporary America.

I want to see more women and nonwhite people on screen. I’d like to see a good romantic comedy about a black couple falling in love that can exist without being pigeonholed as a “black movie.” I’d like to see the Latina version of John Wick (2014) or Office Space (1999). I don’t necessarily want to see films about race or women’s issues. Right now, I just want to see some different folks lead.

Hollywood too frequently employs white actors to tell universal stories; a continued reliance on the white “everyman” results in films that lack the texture of (contemporary) America. Where are the sci-fi protagonists with curvy bodies or the vampires with brown skin and curly hair? Such long-standing inequities stem from racist and sexist standards of beauty that have governed a racist and sexist system of film production and stardom in the United States since the silent era. But at a time when 44 percent of moviegoers are nonwhite, it is unbearable that 76 percent of the bodies on screen remain white.

So, I have hopes for the new Ghostbusters starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. While the film highlights Hollywood’s reliance on “sure hits” that often recycle white male protagonists along with narratives, this version of Ghostbusters promises something more: a crew of women that represent radically diverse body types in a film that is presumably not about their looks or struggles as women. What an escapist fantasy!

Priscilla Peña Ovalle teaches film and television in the cinema studies program at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Dance and the Hollywood Latina: Race, Sex, and Stardom (Rutgers 2011) and is currently working on a project about race and hairstyles in Hollywood.

Ellen Scott — Institutional exposés

Hollywood tells many stories about race, but those that lay bare invisible power relations—the struggles of not individuals but of a larger segment of society against institutional constraints—are most rare. These stories are difficult both because such institutional forces are hard to name and personify and because Hollywood, an institution itself, has a vested interest in muting these images.

The problem of incarceration, and the prison industrial complex, is a massive rather than merely personal story. Sixty percent of black male high school dropouts will go to prison before age 35. In the process, they and their families will find many of the gains of the civil rights era effectively reversed, from voting rights (which are often denied to felons) to their prospects of reaching middle-class status.

Such stories remain rare in American media, partly because Hollywood censors long forbade broad condemnation of the criminal justice system as a professional courtesy to police and judges. However, stories from behind prison walls—often told by independent cinema, primarily documentaries but also feature films like Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere (2012)—stand to reveal much about contemporary America.

Experiments like Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation (2006) and John Sayles’ City of Hope (1991) show how narrative cinema can operate as institutional exposé. One challenge is motivating the often individualistic, solipsistic art of cinema to tell the intricate stories of the many. How might we, for example, tell a cinematic story that makes palpable the power and impetus behind the “Black Lives Matter” campaign not only through personal stories but through the story of networks—both digital and human? Such stories even more difficult to sell than they are to tell. The other challenge is to find funding for films whose politics conflict with the whitewashed stories Hollywood has traditionally enshrined as “the” American narrative.

Ellen Scott is Assistant Professor of Media History at CUNY-Queens College. Her work concerns the relationship between media and the ongoing struggle for African American equality and her current book Cinema Civil Rights: Race, Repression and Regulation in the Classical Hollywood Era is now available from Rutgers University Press.

Ana-Christina Ramón — The Latino version of Parenthood

Latinos are not only the largest minority group, but also one of the fastest growing in a country that is expected to be majority-minority by 2043. Many businesses and political interests have taken notice and made a concerted effort to appeal and market to Latinos. So why has Hollywood been slow to catch up? Although our research at the Bunche Center at UCLA shows that relatively diverse TV shows excel in ratings, Latinos remain underrepresented onscreen. One underlying reason may be the belief that Latinos will continue to consume media regardless of who makes or appears in movies and TV shows. But will this reasoning (true or not) hold up as younger Latinos become savvier about their entertainment options? And, is Hollywood leaving money on the table by not appealing to Latinos’ experiences?

Growing up in Los Angeles as a daughter of Mexican and Peruvian immigrants, I know how varied and rich the Latino experience can be. From my grandmother’s journey as a single mother who worked as a housekeeper to give her kids opportunities to my life as an academic researcher advocating for social justice issues, a multitude of stories exist that are uniquely Latino yet encompass universal themes of struggle and triumph. Recent hits such as Jane the Virgin and Devious Maids show that TV audiences want to see Latino content. But not every Latino show has to be based on a Spanish-language telenovela, either.

Overall, Hollywood needs to move beyond its one-dimensional Latino character tropes. Where can I find a drama about successful Latino professionals who maintain strong ties to their families and culture? Where’s the Latino version of Parenthood or Best Man? Take a chance, Hollywood. The results may surprise you.

Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón is Assistant Director and Associate Researcher of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. She currently manages the Hollywood Advancement Project that examines diversity in the entertainment industry and is the co-author (with Darnell Hunt) of the 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report and the new 2015 report.

This article was originally written for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Media

3 Ways ‘YouTube Kids’ Will Be Better For Your Children

New app has a streamlined interface and parental controls

If you’ve hung around kids at all in the last few years, you know they love YouTube, even though the video site is only supposed to be for people 13 and up. Now, Google is planning to roll out a YouTube app specifically aimed at kids.

The new app, which launched Monday, is the first in a suite of kid-friendly versions of Google services that the search giant is planning to launch. Here are the child and parent-friendly features of YouTube for Kids that Google has revealed thus far:

A more streamlined interface (and no comments!)

Regular YouTube has at least a dozen different channel categories across a broad variety of topics. YouTube Kids has just four: Television shows, music, educational content and exploring top videos. Comments are also stripped out of the videos, according to USA Today, and images and links are larger than on regular YouTube to make them easier for kids to tap.

Mobile-first design

With more than a third of children under two years old now using smartphones or tablets, it makes sense that Google is building this service for mobile devices instead of desktops. YouTube Kids is available on Android and iOS.

Parental controls

Parents can make sure YouTube doesn’t become a timesink by setting time limits on how long the app can be used. When the limit is reached, the user has to enter a parent-set password to reopen the app. The app will also automatically censor words like “sex,” prompting the child to input a different term.

YouTube Kids will have advertising at launch, but the commercials will be vetted by YouTube’s policy team to ensure they are family-friendly. The app won’t be tied to Google accounts, so kids’ personal information won’t be collected and stored.

TIME Media

Watch Allison Williams Defend Her Father’s Honor

The Girls star opened up about her father's suspension from NBC Nightly News

The characters on Girls aren’t known for their communication skills, but Allison Williams, who plays Marnie on the HBO show, had a smooth, dignified answer when asked about her father at a talk on Wednesday night.

During an event at 92nd Street Y, host Seth Meyers asked the actress how her father Brian Williams, who was recently suspended from NBC Nightly News, and the rest of her family was doing. Allison is the first member of the Williams’ family to speak out after the controversy over her father’s false report — made on air — that he was in a helicopter hit by an RPG over Iraq in 2003.

The youngest Williams acknowledged that her family was having a “really hard time,” they were grateful for the support they’d received from friends and fans. She also defended her father’s honor, saying:

“One thing this experience has not done is shake my trust and belief in him as a man. He’s a really good man. He’s an honest man. He’s a truthful man. He has so much integrity. He cares so much about journalism. And yes, he’s a really good dad, but I know you can trust him because, as any good daughter does, I have tested him on that.”

She also presented an optimistic front, saying, “I can’t wait until he is back on TV.”

Read next: Brian Williams Isn’t the Only One: Here Are 6 Others Whose Embellishments Threatened Their Careers

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TIME

Chris Hansen Wants a Comeback

Chris Hansen in 2007.
Paul Drinkwater—NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images Chris Hansen in 2007.

In a new interview, the controversial host of To Catch a Predator discusses his return to television with Killer Instinct

Neal Shapiro was there in 2004 when Tom Brokaw left the anchor chair of NBC Nightly News to Brian Williams.

Having spent 35 years in television news, Shapiro has worked nearby most every prominent newsreader in the business. He has seen reporters rise and seen them fall. And he has seen the fallen find ways to get up again.

“I think TV and America love second acts,” the former president of NBC News says. “I think whatever issues some reporters have in their past, there’s a long history of people reinventing themselves.”

Williams is scuffling now, caught in a tale of misremembered facts and embellished details. In fact, Shapiro was reflecting recently on the chances of recovery for a different NBC veteran, one who, like Williams, has found himself on the wrong end of tabloid attention. Now this other longtime network personality is seeking a second chance of his own.

Chris Hansen is returning to television. To trace the length of that comeback, you need to go back eight years to a grey afternoon in Terrell, Texas. There, inside a single-story home, an important state prosecutor named Louis Conradt raised a Browning .380 pistol to his head. In front of police and near Hansen’s cameras, Conradt shot himself dead.

Since 2004, the television newsmagazine Dateline NBC had aired an enterprising segment called To Catch a Predator, a sting operation that exposed dozens of men, including Conradt, and arrested would-be child sex offenders. As host of the hidden-camera series, Hansen became a star journalist and one of the most recognizable faces at NBC News, right alongside Williams.

‘I think TV and America love second acts.’The prosecutor’s suicide was shocking, and it became the first in a series of events that pushed Hansen from television. Conradt’s sister filed a $105 million lawsuit against NBC, and though it was settled out of court, many felt the case led the network to pull the plug on Predator for good in 2007.

As Hansen spun off the series into other hidden-camera segments for the network, reports surfaced that made the journalist himself the story. The married Hansen was allegedly having an affair with a Florida television reporter some 20 years his junior. In 2013, the woman, who said employers would no longer hire her after news broke of her apparent relationship with Hansen, released personal photos of herself and Hansen, including one showing what appeared to be the couple locked in a kiss. A short while later, NBC announced it was not renewing Hansen’s contract.

NBC, which would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Hansen’s departure, was quick to scrub most mentions of him from its website, and soon Hansen’s own Twitter feed had dried up, too. He tried his hand at a couple of pilots, but nothing got off the ground. It began to look like Hansen was less of a free agent than a newsman in exile.

Then a breakthrough came last summer. Hansen met with executives at the true-crime cable channel Investigation Discovery, and by the fall an original show, Killer Instinct with Chris Hansen, had been greenlit. The show will begin its 10-episode run later this year (five episodes have already been shot). Staying relevant during the move from network to cable is no small order—ask Dan Rather or Conan O’Brien about it—but for Hansen it will be a shot at redemption. Now Hansen speaks out for the first time since leaving NBC.

***

Late last year, Hansen found himself in a Texas prison facing a killer convicted of what the journalist says was a “horrendous murder.” Hansen had spent the fall and winter bouncing around the country conducting interviews for Killer Instinct. The show will give Hansen a platform once again to do what he says he does best. “It [will] involve people speaking out for the first time,” Hansen says, “and my ability to sometimes get these people to talk who had never talked before.”

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
NBC/Getty ImagesChris Hansen during an interview with Jay Leno on March 2, 2007.

Hansen wishes to discuss his new show rather than say much about his private life, but as someone who’s traded in stories his entire career he is well aware viewers and media observers will be keeping close watch. For Investigation Discovery, Hansen will shed many of the hidden-camera tricks he used at NBC. Instead of popping out at subjects dressed as a homeless person or confronting unsuspecting pedophiles, Hansen will revisit true-crime stories that have not yet been widely investigated.

As an interviewer, Hansen still ranks. He excels in getting subjects to open up, and to do so in detail, about matters they might not otherwise be inclined to discuss. His polished voice and delivery reveal themselves today even in casual conversation. Executives at Investigation Discovery say the decision to bring Hansen on despite rumors of his personal life and a messy split with NBC was not a difficult one. “It didn’t give us a moment of hesitation,” says Kevin Bennett, the channel’s general manager.

Hansen leapt into journalism with the same certainty. He lived in Chicago until he was eight, when Hansen’s father, who worked in sales for the Eaton Corporation, received a promotion. The family picked up and settled in the exclusive Bloomfield Township near Detroit. It was there, in the summer of 1975, that the infamous labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa went missing. It was widely believed that Hoffa had been the victim of a mob hit, and his disappearance became a sensational news story. Network reporters arrived from New York City, and Hansen would ride his bike to the crime scene a mile-and-a-half from home to watch the FBI comb for clues. It was then journalism struck him.

“From that moment on, this is all I really wanted to do,” Hansen says. “It was the excitement that this major event had happened, although tragic, and that I could go watch it. It was all Detroit was talking about.”

His sons first considered him a celebrity when he was parodied on an episode of ‘South Park.’Hansen began reporting as a student at Michigan State University, and later for local stations in Tampa and Detroit. By 1991, Hansen received his first offer from NBC. The network wondered if Hansen might be interested in moving to London to become a correspondent, and while budget cuts surrounding the Gulf War wiped the network chance away, it did not do so for good. Two years later, Hansen was called to New York to appear on a new NBC program starring Brokaw and Katie Couric, and in 1994 he joined the staff of Dateline NBC.

It was on Dateline, Hansen stretched his legs as a TV journalist. Take any major news story of the previous two decades—there is a good chance he covered it. Hansen was there for the Unabomber, Columbine and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. In 1995, after the bombings in Oklahoma City, NBC rented out a hardware store as a makeshift studio, and one night Hansen stood on the roof overlooking the rubble where 168 people were killed. Hansen told himself, “I will never see anything as tragic as this in my entire lifetime.” Six years later, he was in Manhattan reporting on Sept. 11.

Hansen won eight Emmy Awards for investigative reporting at NBC, but his career truly took off in 2004 when he pitched the story that would become To Catch a Predator. The segments were extremely popular, pulling in more than 10 million viewers at their height in 2006, and Hansen was now regularly getting stopped on the street, having his picture taken at airports. His sons first considered him a celebrity when he was parodied on South Park.

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As much as Predator was a hit, it was a magnet for controversy too. In the segments, decoys, posing as underage boys or girls, chatted online with adult men, many of whom would agree to visit offline for what they believed would be sex with a minor. Instead, they arrived at a home rigged by NBC with cameras and microphones. Hansen presented them with chat logs in which they had solicited sex with boys and girls so young the age difference had to measured in decades, not years, and the alleged predators would take off running.

‘I think we exposed a lot of bad people…if the old guard journalists have a problem with that, then so be it.’Hansen and those behind Predator have long insisted decoys never initiated chat-room conversations or were the first to bring up sex. But detractors of the segments argued its decoys were manipulative, baiting men into escalating their fantasies to reality.

Sometimes, while they did not set off a dialogue about sex, the decoys would insist the men meet in real life. During one sting, a female decoy hired by NBC seemed to beg an alleged predator to visit, even offering to pay for the gas needed to drive there. In the case of Conradt, 56, who believed he was chatting with a 13-year-old boy, the decoy appeared to grow desperate when the prosecutor said he could not come over because his sister was visiting. According to their chat transcripts, one instant message sent then to Conradt read: “Ditch her!”

Today, Hansen rebuffs critics who say the segments amounted to civilians and TV producers masquerading as law enforcement. “I think we raised awareness and created a dialogue that didn’t exist before,” he says. “We created compelling television, and I think we exposed a lot of bad people who were preying on children. So if the old-guard journalists have a problem with that, then so be it.”

Conradt’s suicide rattled Hansen and his NBC crew, but it did not immediately finish Predator. (The legal settlement between Conradt’s family and the network prevents Hansen and those involved with the case from talking about it publicly.) Advertiser discomfort is the likeliest cause for the series’ cancellation. By 2007, companies began to pull their sponsorship of the segments, wary of having their products associated with the program’s content. Privately, one former NBC executive says that Predator, a once-fresh idea, had been overexposed and beaten into the ground by the network.

31st Annual American Women in Radio & Television Gracie Allen Awards - Show
Larry Busacca—Getty ImagesChris Hansen, accepting award for Outstanding Documentary on June 19, 2006 at the Gracie Allen awards.

Predator has left a difficult legacy, although it does not trouble its host. Hansen believes the segments ended simply because they had run their course. To the show’s star, that Predator was bought and syndicated across the world for years following its original run was proof its criticisms were overblown. “At the end of the day,” he says, “we had proved our point.”

Buoyed by his Predator success, Hansen starred in subsequent spin-off projects at NBC, including segments titled “To Catch a Con Man” and “To Catch an ID Thief.” His style of reporting had become a trademark: He was the man with the hidden camera, outing people who thought they’d never be exposed. Yet between 2011 and 2013, Hansen himself saw his private life become the subject of public consumption.

Hansen declined to comment on his alleged affair, as did the other reporter named in the stories. “If NBC were upset about it or thought there was some moral lapse that impacted my ability to do my job, they could have exercised the morals clause in my contract three years ago,” Hansen says. “And that never happened.”

Hansen, who has two sons and lives in Connecticut, is certain his departure from NBC was amicable. He felt, as the network apparently agreed, Dateline was moving away from his particular brand of investigative journalism.

Killer Instinct will be Hansen’s shot to seize back the spotlight he once held. Each episode, Hansen says, will roll out like a feature film. “It’s a different look, it’s a different feel,” he says. “I sort of feel like I’m on the cutting edge of something.”

Hansen is also back where he started, reporting on the types of stories that drew him to journalism in the first place. On Killer Instinct, the episodes will succeed or fail based on Hansen’s ability to get people to talk. The series will be, Hansen says, “tailored around my way of doing interviews.”

Once more, Hansen will be putting himself at the center of the story.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the year Tom Brokaw left NBC Nightly News. It was 2004.

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