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Brian, Charles and Katie: Keep Their Day Jobs

Posted by: Jon Fine on October 12, 2007

Sometimes the conclusions you arrive at are surprising. It’s nice when it happens; the world and its manifold data have should never lose the ability to astonish, etc. Thus it is that while aesthetically, the networks’ nightly newscasts strike me as an incredibly quaint ritual, there remain many arguments against unemploying Katie, Charles and Brian, which I outline in this week’s column.

I guess I should have known all along that my instincts regarding the evening news were off to begin with, since I was convinced Katie Couric would destroy the competition as soon as she took Dan Rather’s chair. My theory was: The anchor’s role is (let’s call it what it is) strictly performative, and Couric’s TV skills are about the best in the business. I stand by both ends of this theory. I also badly misjudged what audience expectations of an evening newscast are, and who is in that audience to begin with. Anyway, more about that. and more on this overall, can be found in the column.

Reader Comments


October 12, 2007 12:11 PM

Your analysis is, I think, correct. There is no reason to give up what is still a large audience that produces large amounts of revenue.
But I think there is one signficant omission in your story. It involves the median age of the viewers.
Basically, the shows attract retirees along with a small number of folks who happen to get home by 630 and aren't fretting over kids' homework, dinner and running off to soccer and ballet practice.
The audience can only continue to grow older as younger news consumers get news when convenient to them.
I don' t know when it will happen, but within a few years, someone will give up the 630 newscast.

arthur friend

October 13, 2007 7:16 PM

Sorry. Nope. Not even close. What Cronkite pioneered was a person who spent 1/2 hour and presented me with a largely unbiased, but educated view of what was happening in the world. The need for that kind of journalism has increased, not decreased. Do any of us have the time, or people on the ground to understand 'the truth’? I don't. And 6:30. Formally a good point.
The digital revolution will save the bits from the broadcast, and for a price, be that advertising, or just cash, will allow me to watch that broadcast at any time, and actually on any device that i want. That is true today. The CBS audience, maybe older, what i think may be missing is the level of education and of buying power, and of influence. However, back to your point. Where today is a high quality of journalism practiced? Network news? (i will get back to that), NY Times, Washington Post, WallStreet Journal, perhaps PBS. Where else? Not the New York Post?, and it gets worse from there. CNN?, maybe once. Not today. And is the answer FOX news? Not for me it isn't. On Couric in particular. She may be an excellent entertainer, just not an excellent journalist either by training, or by experience. Let's just leave it at that. Yes, the correct metaphor is that we are inundated with information and bereft of knowledge.
The IRAQ war. What does it mean? What is the right thing to do? To her credit Ms. Couric in the past two months taught me some important things that I didn't understand, even after five years of war, and 1500 evenings of hearing about the war. I am pretty certain that I am not alone. I can't be the only person who has trouble understanding the Muslim religion, and it's goals, let along what the Sunie and Shiite sects interpret being Muslim to be.
Yeah, for me. Cronkite, Rather, Huntley, Severeid, Brokaw, Schieffer, Koppel...they increased my understanding of the world as much as any school teacher I have ever had. Why aren't there more of these people today?

Bill G

October 13, 2007 11:10 PM

Absolutely. The broadcast evening news shows, as maligned as they are, outdraw the top cable news shows significantly.

Here's the viewership trend for the broadcast evening news:

And here is the trend for the O'Reilly Factor and MSNBC's countdown. The Factor is the highest rated cable news show.

Firozali A.Mulla MBA PhD

October 14, 2007 8:18 AM

I guess the improvement may not be visible for quite some time as the average tax payer in America is too lazy to look at the numbers. They just live as the life has taught then to live. There money in ISA so why worry. Times change but the many is one factor American does not seem to take into accounts. There will be few cries about the Wall Street by those who invest. But by far how many complain?
I doubt if this attitude of having always will stay away from the USA residents. The belief is there is money. America is rich. As long as I eat, I am fine.
Overall there is no outcry. Who is interested in the CPI, statistics and the boring number if the bread they get daily is enough? Sure. Life is becoming difficult but that is one part the American seem to have survive is they think.
But why bring the auditors inhere.
They will convince for fees sake that there is still money. They need fees. Okay. That is their bread. Why interfere in the tax payers wallets by telling them too much

I thank you
Firozali A.Mulla MBA PhD
P.O.Box 6044
East Africa

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