Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mad as hell. Not going to take it anymore. Etc.

Rumors continue to roll on Les Moonves’ efforts to snag Katie Couric for the new, improved CBS Evening News. How remarkable! Maybe they can also use a new “swooshing” sound when stories pop up on screen! And build a new desk! With blinky lights!

Les, babe, let’s chat. Network news has been fading in the ratings and from the public consciousness since I was listening to Billy Squier on eight-track. It’s beyond tired, as is reflected by your ubiquitous ads for Centrum Silver and incontinence products. I’m a news junkie and don’t know ANYONE that watches ABC, NBC or CBS’ evening newscasts. Even my retired mom watches CNN while my dad is searching for the latest WWII doc on the History Channel. Why are you continuing to kick this dead nag expecting it to start galloping again?

Let’s face facts – news junkies already know everything that happened hours before you commit it to tape at 5 p.m. EST. We in the Western states might as well be watching a newsreel considering how stale it is by day’s end. Cable news and radio own immediacy. The Internet is not only immediate, it also owns thoroughness and narrowcasting, so you can’t compete there either. And to be honest, most the people I know are either working or in traffic when your show is broadcast.

As a J-school grad, I have some residual interest in promoting journalism, so let me drop a few suggestions for that time slot in order of fiscal sanity and programming effectiveness:

1) Eliminate the newscast completely. Crush ABC and NBC with repeats of Everyone Loves Raymond. Focus your news budget on the current hour-long investigative programs.

2) Okay, that last one scared you. How about transforming the newscast into something like Nightline? Delve deep into one or two stories that no one else is reporting on. In the final segment, hold a seven-minute roundtable discussion featuring experts in the field rather than vaguely-informed journalists.

3) Still too radical? Alright, enough with Manhattan already. Keep the newscast, but broadcast from Chicago… that’s right, middle America. Better yet, buy a satellite truck and broadcast from a different location every week. Feature a few stories from the area along with the big stories of the day. Get someone untraditional to host, dropping the Cronkite “voice of God” template since no one buys it anymore. A guy like Bob Costas can read a report and he’s actually likable, believable and doesn’t seem terminally biased. Better yet, grab one of the hundred great local anchors none of us have yet heard of.

Les, you have to blow up the whole "Eyewitness News" model and create something new. Otherwise, you’ll be running ads for caskets and urns by 2010.

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Anonymous Spike Jones said...

I think Jon Stewart's Daily Show has them all beat, anyway. I guess to find out what's going on in the world and laugh my sweet butt off at the same time. Now THAT's informative entertainment.

11:36 AM  
Blogger inkling said...

I didn't even think of that! Can you imagine a Stewart/Colbert double-team on the day's events? Definitely TiVo-worthy...

9:13 PM  

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