Lights. Camera. Conversation.
With a blend of friendliness and pedagogy, Robert R. and Zohara M. Hieronimus are bringing their futuristic news style to Carroll Community Television starting Tuesday.
"Welcome to the '21st Century News,' where knowledge comes first," said Mrs. Hieronimus as she introduced the first 30-minute program, which will air three times each week on Channel 19.
This 21st century news is not the stuff of science fiction. Rather, it is an attempt "to bring people together to see likenesses instead of emphasizing differences," said Mr. Hieronimus. "We really try to put a different slant on old subjects in a way that builds bridges between all peoples."
Although most of their media exposure has been in radio, "Dr. Bob and Zoh" were far from camera-shy as they taped their first program at the Westminster station two weeks ago.
"We just put them in front of the camera and they talk," said producer Tom Forsythe.
Scholarship also figures in the format, said Mr. Hieronimus. The hosts assign themselves volumes of "required reading" before doing any on-the-air interview.
"Air time is sacred," he said. "We do all the research and script every show, so we don't waste time."
The husband and wife team discusses a wide range of subjects with such ease that viewers won't realize the hours of research that precede each program.
Their Owings Mills home contains a 20,000-volume library, with books filling spaces in nearly every room. Both are voracious readers who constantly research several subjects simultaneously. A "chaotic order" emerges in their basement office, which is teeming with computers, books, newspapers, recordings, faxes, tapes and videos.
"It's our factory, where we are buried with our books," Mr. Hieronimus laughed.
The relaxed atmosphere on the television show comes from years of experience in the public eye and ear.
"Basically, we are bringing our radio show to TV," said Mrs. Hieronimus.
"After more than five years in national and local radio, we could get in front of the camera for months without running out of material," her husband said.
Initial shows in the Carroll series will deal with alternative health care, the old Negro baseball leagues and UFO reports -- featuring a Westminster woman's account of a sighting.
"They are professionals who both know their subjects well," said Mr. Forsythe of the Hieronimuses. "They are out in front of everybody on whatever they discuss."
Mr. Hieronimus said the two won't shy away from controversy. Any topic will be fair game.
"We work on ideas which haven't been in the mainstream," he said. "This is landmark stuff."
For the first weeks, they are soloing on their show. Eventually, the couple will share the cameras with guests, but "only those who are tops in their fields," he said. "Whenever we do a show, we make sure it's lined up well and we can get all our questions in."
Mr. Hieronimus said he is disappointed in many of today's most popular TV talk shows.
"The hosts read one or two sources and base their knowledge on a slanted point of view," he said. "Then they ask questions for about six minutes, fitting their subjects in between commercials."
Absent a photographic memory, he said, scholars must rely on reading material.
"How do you remember?" he said. "You read and read. By the time you are finished, the information is ingrained. Then, you can speak with confidence."
During the program, "Bob and Zoh," as they prefer to be called, will share their sources with viewers.
"The saddest part of our work is when we can't convince others to research projects that interest them," he said.
And this news show offers enticements.
Mr. Hieronimus ends a program on the old Negro baseball leagues with: "The first 10 people who send us a large self-addressed stamped envelope will receive . . ."