NBC and CBS Fire News Producers

CBS News has fired Katie Couric’s producer, joining NBC who last week fired their evening news producer. Somehow, I don’t think the producers are the problem.

The bottom line is that the audiences for all three nightly newscasts are getting grayer, with few young people getting hooked on the habit of setting down with their favorite anchor for 30 minutes every evening. Most daily newspapers are also experience huge drops in circulation.

We’ve gotten used to 24/7 news coverage. CNN started the trend more than 20 years ago and has spawned several clones. In recent years, the proliferation of news and commentary on the Internet has added to this trend. Most of us who want news want it now, if not sooner.

Conversely, the explosion in the number of television options during the dinner hour means that what Katie Couric, Brian Williams, and Charlie Gibson have to say has a lot more competition than did their 1980 counterparts Walter Chronkite, John Chancellor, and Frank Reynolds.

So, the news junkies don’t need to watch the nightly news packages and the casual viewers can turn to SportsCenter, sitcom re-runs, game shows, or whatever else strikes their fancy. Shuffling the producers around isn’t going to change that, unless one of them figures out how to make the programs relevant again.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Conversely, the explosion in the number of television options during the dinner hour means that what Katie Couric, Brian Williams, and Charlie Gibson have to say has a lot more competition than did their 1980 counterparts Walter Chronkite, John Chancellor, and Frank Reynolds.

    Well, most of that competition isn’t news, being instead reruns of MASH, and HAPPY DAYS.
    (I know, arguably, neither are NBC/CBS, and I have my doubts about ABC)

    The question becomes, though, will they can Couric when her numbers still refuse to come up?

  2. Caliban Darklock says:

    When I was a kid, at 6 PM, there was nothing on TV *but* news. You *had* to watch the news. You could watch any news you wanted, but it was going to be the news. So you picked someone you liked.

    Now our televisions have 2500 channels, videotape, DVD, pay-per-view cable, TiVo, and probably a game console or two. Come six o’clock, we don’t have to watch the news. We can watch damn near anything.

    And thanks to the web, we don’t miss a thing – our RSS feeds automatically update with all the headlines, and we get to skip all the crap about world events and government if we like. We can go straight to the consumer protection segment about mortgage lenders, or the pictures of the cute puppies, and we don’t have to endure the excruciating agony of “are they going to report on what I *care* about now?!”

    The times they are a-changing.

  3. Triumph says:

    Shuffling the producers around isn’t going to change that, unless one of them figures out how to make the programs relevant again.

    Two words: Howard Stern

  4. I remember when I stopped watching CBS news in the early 80’s. Dan Rather ran a piece about an American killed in Nicaragua when the helicopter he was in was shot down during an attack on a school. The story made me question why we would be supporting the contras if they were shooting up schools. So I did some research (which was a lot more difficult to do in those pre-google days).

    It turns out the facts were individually right, but the story was a blatant lie. The school was an officer training camp (certainly within the definition of a school, but hardly a kindergarten and certainly a legitimate target of war). The helicopter was not directly part of the attack, but was doing medivac several miles away as part of support for the attack. So while Dan told the truth (probably as told to him by the Sandinista), the impression he left was very different from the true story in just a bit of context.

    I have not heard anything that tells me CBS (or NBC or ABC) is really going to give me the news, free of bias. In fact, I would watch only to see the bias, not the news because it would be quicker for me to get my news from other more reliable sources than to have to fact check every story they did.

    The perscription for becoming the number one network news is simple. Produce a scrupulously reliable, fact filled news cast with out bias. The problem is they think they are already doing that and don’t even have a clue how far from the mark they really are.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    You’ve given part of the answer, James, but not all of it. The business model for network news, broadcast TV, and even cable TV have all failed and the parent companies are doing their damnedest to ignore it.

    There needs to be a lot more pull programming than the push programming that’s dominated for quite a while. That will take an attitude (not to mention salary) adjustment for all of the media to digest.