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Web site spins Clinton Legacy

With President Bill Clinton's second term coming to a close this week, thoughts turn to the creation of a Clinton Library, a place for people to study his campaigns, presidency and legacy. Interactive media will certainly be a part of any Clinton Library, but it also appears that the and Web sites might be a good place to visit as well.

Last week, Nightline
aired a five-part special titled The Clinton Legacy, done with the help of PBS's Frontline
(which will air a two-hour version on Jan. 16). The series featured interviews with numerous Clinton appointees, advisers and others, each discussing aspects of Clinton's rise and years in office. Of course, there's only so much footage that can air during a week of Nightline, and much of the interviews ends up on the cutting-room floor.

Knowing this going in to the project, Nightline
producers turned to the Web site with an idea: Why not create an online companion to what was on-air? The result is a section of the site that offers photos from Robert McNeely's book The Clinton Years, video, anecdotes and transcripts of the interviews that go beyond what could be offered on television. A chronology, links, and an interactive quiz are also featured.

"If you watch Nightline
, you realize that they do a beautiful job of telling an emotional story and crafting a video picture and almost, in this case, a documentary, says Bernie Gershon, senior vice president and general manager, "What we can do is provide additional information and let the users navigate and experience interactive slide shows or video or read through the interviews with their favorite or least favorite characters."

Says Nightline
Executive Producer Tom Bettag, "In many cases, some of the most compelling material has to be removed because of time. We now have a chance to share the material that adds depth and perspective. "

The information will have a prominent place on the Web site for the next two months but will always be available through the site's archive. Taking 10 years of presidential history and working it into shape was no easy task, but the result is a site that has approximately two hours of video clips, from historic press conferences to interviews with 20 White House insiders, including Dee Dee Myers, Dick Morris, Madeleine Albright and Joe Lockhart.

"To encode two hours of straight video would usually take a day," says Gershon. "But to do it in bits and having other pieces related to it took a couple of months."

Another major broadcast event last week tapped the Internet as an outlet for material: the Ken Burns documentary Jazz. Using the Internet to complement major broadcast events could be an important key to driving viewers to the site, but Gershon is quick to point out that the Internet will be important for more-immediate news events as well.

"A good example of that is an interview Peter Jennings did with [former Labor Secretary designate] Linda Chavez, and they put a brief clip of the exclusive interview on World News Tonight," he says. "But we were able to put the entire interview online."