Let’s have more passionate newscasts!
The New Yorker has a piece on Katie Couric’s ill-fated voyage with CBS:
I don’t think that people want less news; they want, I believe, the same kind of informed passion and doggedness that TV-news people displayed while covering Hurricane Katrina, and they want anchors to go deep into issues. I would more than happily watch Brian Williams do an hour of news every night (and that’s not, I should say, because a member of my family works for NBC News). Who knows, young people might turn on their TVs in droves if news organizations had a few choice strands of Michael Moore’s DNA in them, and pointed out when, say, a public official wasn’t telling the truth. Jon Stewart is a lightning rod both for people who decry the notion that young people get their news from watching “The Daily Show,” and for people who think that his (and Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report”) is the only current-events show worth watching. I’m not a Stewartite, but when Dick Cheney denies making certain statements about the war in Iraq and Stewart shows three video clips that prove he’s lying, I think he’s providing a real service to the country, and I’d like to think that that’s what his fans are responding to.
I absolutely do think that’s what his fans are responding to. And those who read blogs are responding to it too. The story tells us that “the viewership of nightly national news began to decline more than two decades ago, before the Internet and before cable news became a big deal.” The decline will continue. The format is dead.
But the story suggests the real reason for Couric’s problem:
CBS doesn’t appear to be all that interested in maintaining its news division; earlier this year, it was reported that the network was looking into using CNN feeds in order to reduce its news-gathering expenses. It costs CBS seven million dollars a year to run its Baghdad bureau, which does sound like a lot of money—until you realize that Couric makes about fifteen million dollars a year and, last year, Moonves made close to forty million. Couric is far from being the most important part of the story; her time at CBS will be, luckily for her, just a footnote to history, a very expensive Band-Aid that failed to stop the bleeding.
I continue to believe Couric could have done something good with the show.
While on the topic, On The Media had an interesting piece last week noting that in LA the Spanish language local news broadcasts lead in the ratings not because of sensationalist ratings grabber stories but, rather, because they do a better job.
This is Former L.A. Times reporter Joe Matthews:
[O]n many of these nights of the six weeks I looked at, there was a very big crime story. You would see it on both English and Spanish. But the difference in how the stories were covered sort of shows the philosophy.
In the Spanish-language broadcasts you’d see many more people interviewed, and not just crime victims but folks affected, a lot of questions asked about police conduct and police response that you never see addressed.
He says there’s really passionate advocacy in the journalism they practice that drives the stations to look at more serious social issues the other stations don’t cover.