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Friday, May 05, 2006

Rep. Kennedy Bounces CIA's Goss From Leading Story on NBC Nightly News

Decisons, decisions. Both ABC and CBS led tonight with the Goss surprise resignation from the CIA. But my favorite anchor Brian Williams led with Rep. Patrick Kennedy. At the top of the news he mentioned the two breaking stories, justifying why he must choose between one or the other as the leading one. Breaking? These stories happened hours ago and anyone near a computer, if not a TV, will know about them by the time the network news come along. But to put the Kennedy story at the top? NBC drifted with it for 7 minutes before getting around to the Porter Goss resignation. In the meantime, ABC and CBS had their in-depth coverage of the resignation (not rehab) story. CBS even managed to get in the Darfur ceasefire in that space of time. So, what happened to NBC's political news sense as to the most important story of the day? And not to be out of step, as NBC was earlier, Wolf Blitzer is leading with the Goss story right now on CNN's 7PM ET segment of Situation Room.

Toronto's Globe & Mail Uncovers Some Vital Statistics

Readers of the hard copy edition of The Globe & Mail - Canada's National Newspaper - and specifically the normally staid Money & Markets pages (B14) probably had a bit of a jolt this morning. Its Market close-up, surrounded by raw data from global markets, was illustrated with the May 2006 cover of Playboy and Playmate Alison Waite, wearning a boardroom dress shirt and tie (unbottoned but for one button). This was to illustrate Thomson Datastream's data on Playboy shares sinking 15% and 'substatial' loss predicted. It's unclear if Thomson Datastream itself provided the cover or someone at the Globe & Mail was given the task of scanning it.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Angelina Joly, Bill Clinton, George Clooney - Fusing Celebrity Status With News Content

This weekend you could catch former President Clinton on AIDS on CNN, George Clooney on Darfur on ABC's This Week and CNN's Late Edition and a "rare interview" with Angelina Joly in Africa on tonight's NBC's Dateline. All worthy appearances by celebrities to raise awareness, provoke action etc, etc. One must conclude that without them TV news executives would find far away stories such as those of the Darfur genocide hard to package for a mass TV audience.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NBC's Brian Williams and United 93 - the power of words

You've stuck through the entire rather dull half hour of network news on April 26. I certainly did, flipping between NBC, CBS, ABC and Lou Dobbs on CNN. It's nearing 7PM EST and one feels a bit jaded and of course nothing more can happen. And yet, I am wrong. I switch away from Shieffer's announcement of a closing and of course light-hearted piece on the London marathon. Will Lou Dobbs have something provocative in his final few minutes? Will I even bother checking out ABC? Should I invest in a TV with a PIP facility for 3 pictures in picture (is there even such an animal) so I can simultaneously see what is happening on the three networks and CNN? And then I stumble across Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News. Perhaps two minutes or so of dialogue, no pictures. He speaks calmly and yet with passion: the New York premiere of Universal Picture's United 93 movie. The item can go wrong; another PR job. After all NBC is owned by NBC Universal. And yet the end result is stunning if not breathtaking as to how Brian Williams is able to convey the atmosphere in the theatre. Air traffic controllers together with Flight 93 victims' families. Stunned silence and sobbing. Of course, this can be effectively done in print. See for instance James Bone's piece in the Times Online: www.timesonline.co.uk But could anyone else do it so well on the other network news as did Brian Williams tonight? With Jennings, Rather and Brokaw gone only Brian Williams is still able to leave you a bit breathless with the power of words in a medium that we have too readily accepted as being visually driven.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's official...what will Cronkite and Rather think?

I did not expect this morning's confirmation by Katie Couric of NBC's Today show that she will indeed be going over to CBS News. Worst kept secret and yet we needed to hear that it's official. There will be few who will think that this will work for CBS Evening News. I agree. That it will work for 60 Minutes? Doubtful, as that show seems to be on its last legs, especially with the departure of Mike Wallace. So, why the move? If I had a choice I rather be driven to work in a limousine in the early hours rather than to rush for an evening job and possibly having to stick around for breaking news updates when other mortals are relaxing after an evening meal with their families. Also, we will soon hear medical assessments of the move. Is it healthy to change a sleep pattern after 15 years? So many unknowns but the worst part of it is that it may not be worth the hassle. Evening newscasts with a strong anchor personality has been the tradition. Witness ABC's attempts to break out of the traditional model. Who is still religiously watching the evening news on any network? I'll venture to say that it's mostly the boomer generation. How much actual news there is in an average CBS, ABC, NBC evening broadcast? 10 minutes at the most on a non-disaster day. The rest is health, funny animals, and longer in-depth pieces that try to show the viewer that it is worthwhile to tune in. Still, it is probably the first ten minutes which determines whether we want to stick around for the rest of the half-hour. If Katie sounds too much and looks too much like a morning host to an audience that is exhausted after a day's work than there will be a clash of civilizations. Another consideration: who decides what to switch on in the morning and in the evening. Is it not the guy who is given the power in the evening and the woman in the morning? The network news shows have the statistic as to how many people are watching them but are they ever gender based? Are only guys watching in the evening? This would explain why news content with violence often dominates the first few minutes if the day's political news is relatively peaceful. The networks know this, so why the possible risk with Katie? Could it be that CBS is preparing for a revolution in its Evening News. Expanding to an hour? Creating a morning format for the evening? Dare I say the word? Tabloid CBS Evening News? A cross between CNN's Situation Room and Paula Zahn? Would a lone Katie be the sole anchor in such a scenario. Is she is too nice for that. So who? Two women? A man and a woman (if memories of Dan and Connie are put aside)? And we go back to the politically incorrect question. Are guys willing to have a woman anchor their evening news? Or do they prefer a Schieffer or Williams to wrap up what passes for in America as the news of the day? By the way, no such 'dilemmas' in Europe. From France to Poland, it is perfectly acceptable to have women anchors for the main evening newscasts. In some countries they even seem to dominate the television screens. But in the US, it is still news what we had confirmed today with our morning coffee. And we can be sure that it will be the topic of conversation at many tables tonight and possibly fodder for spousel arguments. It will be interesting to see how Katie copes tonight with Larry King on CNN, this evening's most important program to watch.