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Marianne Paskowski

Broadcast Nets Dancing in the Past

April 23, 2008 12:31 PM

It came as absolutely no surprise to me that “The CBS Evening News,” anchored by Katie Couric, hit its ratings low last week, attracting only 5.39 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

Forget about Katie Couric. She’s not the problem. The concept of a broadcast network evening newscast is just so passe. When was the last time you watched any of them, let alone recorded a newscast for later viewing?

I don’t even remember what time any of them air because, like most people, I get my news online or on cable nets whenever I feel like it.

The broadcast networks are broken because they are reluctant to part with old traditions. They’d be better off programming the hour with syndicated fare because newscasts are no longer the great lead-ins to access and prime-time viewing that they once were.

Or heaven forbid, switch out the network news with another reality-based show. How do you like my idea “Dancing in the Past”?


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Comments (16)

Andy S.:

"The broadcast networks are broken because they are reluctant to part with old traditions."

I'm not sure I agree. CBS attempted a certain level of reinvention with the Couric broadcast, but the audience did not take to it. And unfortunately, some of the tradition they ditched involved things like substance and journalistic integrity.

I do agree with your points about the general decline in relevance of the evening newscasts. Personally, I got out of the habit of watching them during my college years (and that's longer ago than I care to admit here), and never reacquired it.

Marianne Paskowski:

Well Andy,

CBS pulled back on Katie. Who is the audience for these broadcast news shows? I don't know anyone who watches them, do you?

My dearly departed father did, but there wasn't cable or the net. If he were alive, given what a news junkie he was, he would be doing what the test of us are doing, going elsewhere.

This is not fixable, thanks for the post,

Arthur :

Well MP,

I TiVO CBS and NBC's evening news nightly and watch at least one of them daily. I think the declining numbers say much more about the changing over-scheduled lifestyles of younger Americans than about the inherent appeal of the newscasts themselves. As video becomes more mobile and recording and playback even more convenient, I think the daily news summary format will grow again -- perhaps over a range of media. It will become commonplace for everyone to see the same 5-10 minute summary followed by a selection of follow-up and feature stories electronically matched to your stated interests.

I'm glad we agree on one point: Katie's not the problem here. If anything Les Moonves is -- for vowing to replace the "voice of God" newscast and to revitalize the format. Change for the sake of change has never gone over great in broadcast TV.

Marianne Paskowski:

Oh Arthur,

You TiVo but you don't watch them all. And that's telling. You made me think about something about broadcast nets' news. The voice of God is gone.

There are now new household names in news like Anderson Cooper, Keith Oberman, etc. And they are all on cable.

Why? Because they are not news readers but they jump into the fray.The dynamic has changed.

Is that good or bad? I really don't know, but with the current generation of news junkies, none of the broadcast news outfits gets it.

Thanks for the post,

Jeff Mulligan:


You alluded to the future when you asked if anyone records network evening news for later viewing. Your penchant for reading news on the Web is heavily influenced by its 24/7 accessibility, according to the individual news consumer's schedule.

I expect that, technology eventually permitting and TV viewing habits increasingly following the Web model, on demand programming (VOD) will become the norm in all television formats. Cable news offerings, tailored to the new VOD model, will morf into YouTube-like news snippets viewers will choose much as they now choose story links on a news medium's Web site. Then news personalities like Katie will get a chance to fairly compete because they will all populate the same media outlet type.

What that means for the broadcast vs. cable models is unclear. Might broadcast TV--unable to provide VOD--become a "background" medium much as radio has become? I think so. It will be a more sophisticated version of the bulletin board programming we now typically see on local access cable.

Keep up your trenchant questions and comments about the fundamental trends in communications.


Andy S.:

"Might broadcast TV--unable to provide VOD--"

Broadcast can provide VOD; CBS is offering a few of their prime-time shows that way now. And I'm sure they're all looking at ways to include news in their mobile content plans. Technology marches on, but in the long run content is still king. The traditional networks, if they want to stay relevant, will have to provide compelling news content just as they'll have to with their entertainment programming.

Forty years ago, sitting in my Broadcast Journalism class, my prof began the year with this question, "What is news?"

Each of us had to stand up in front of the class and express our beliefs on the subject extemporaneously. I have never forgotten that experience. At the end of the course, we got to do it again. The growth and depth of understanding was profound for me.

I remain a staunch supporter of keeping reporting and opinion separate.

Reporting requires approaching the responsibility with a concentrated effort towards objectivity.

Presenting an informed opinion should be set apart and identified as such.

The melting together of the two has become all-too-common in today's media.

With regards to the big networks maintaining a half hour nightly broadcast, they have their place in this multi-faceted society. These news organizations have within their ranks many diverse, bright reporters. The technology will permit many forms now, and in the future, for technical delivery of the information.

I understand your point, Ms Paskowski, that many people use alternate forms of getting their news.

The point, however is not the "how" of it, rather the availability of editorally well thought out, fully researched and well written information coming to us through diverse sources in order to have a well informed citizenry.

That is our challenge, if we are to have a growing and strong society-nation. In some circles, our challenge is under attack as some present "news" with a self-serving spin that reflects anything but truth and fact.
Peter Bright


I love watching cable news and getting my opinion mixed in with the actual reporting during programs like Olbermann's and O'Reillys, but I must agree that if you are going to produce a credible newscast that you need to keep opinion and reporting separate. Katie's problem is Katie. The nightly newscasts are watched by so many old people that bringing in someone who was much younger and as much as I hate to say it, female, hurt them right away. Katie's Today show reporting had no credibility with the 60+ crowd. Its why Bob Schieffer did so well for CBS and why Charlie Gibson has overtaken the younger Brian Williams. Voice of God may be dead, but the nightly news viewers still want someone older and straight forward.

Marianne Paskowski:

Jeff,The one think I do like about broadcast news is that you know you're getting news not colored by opinion. The problem is the demo, I guess. Older viewers, 60 plus are less likely to turn to the Internet or on demand for their news.


Marianne Paskowski:

You're right about compelling content and I'm sure you can probably catch the CBS Evening News online. Remember when Katie was first hired, CBS hyped her role online. Haven't heard a peep about that since it was first announced.


Marianne Paskowski:


At least broadcast network news is labeled as news and not opinion, and I give them a lot of credit for that. They take their leads from major newspapeers that label opinion as opinion.

However, with budget cutbacks, both broadcast & cable news nets fall down big time with international news coverage. We live in a global economy, and news here is just too US centric.

Thanks for your post,

Marianne Paskowski:


Could disagree more with you about Katie. She's not the problem at all. I don't care if she resonates with the 60 plus crowd or not.

She was hired to younger the demo, and given the format, who could do that. The broadcast nets are just going to have to live with the fact that they have old demos.

And what happens when those old demos just die off? By the time we get to that age, having grown up on other news outlets, we won't fill their shoes.

Good to hear from you again,


I completely agree about the US-Centric shape of broadcast & cable news.

I had hope that CNN would broaden it's scope considering it's world-wide audience.

I think THE SITUATION ROOM is a joke. Wolf should take a week off and look at playback of it. So much wonderful, instant technology carrying so much meaningless, repetitive borsht.

He's not alone. I just used him as an example.
Peter Bright

Carl LaFong:

Let's don't forget, the ratings for even the lowly CBS Evening News are *six times* higher than for primetime cable news leader Fox News Channel.

Oh, and David Letterman (another NBC talent raid by CBS) recently had his two lowest rated weeks ever. How come the press isn't jumping all over him?

Marianne Paskowski:


CNN's earliest roots were its overseas bureaus and coverage of the Gulf War and Imelda Marcus (and all of here shoes, of course)

It's amazing to go to Europe and see how more global theirs newscasts are. Almost riveting.


Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Carl,
Of course you're right, but look what lofty perches the broadcasters fell from with the advent of cable.

As for Letterman,you're right. Guess he's just off everyone's radar.God, he can't even get bad buzz.

Thanks for pointing that out,

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