The End of Network News II
NETWORK NEWS COULD SOON SAY GOODBYE (Miami Herald)
Are evening network news broadcasts on the way out? Some television experts believe so, as competing media siphon viewers from the network newscasts. Tom Brokaw delivered his final newscast last week, and Dan Rather will follow early next year. But it may not be long before not just a veteran anchor but broadcast network news itself says good night to America.
Battered by talk radio, the Internet and cable TV, the networks’ evening newscasts have been losing viewers for more than two decades. Although their audience of 27 million viewers still dwarfs that of cable news, industry experts say it’s only a matter of time until NBC, ABC and CBS start to pull plugs. ”The evening news is a concept whose time has come and gone,” said Bernard Goldberg, a former CBS correspondent who is now an acerbic critic of the industry. “I really feel sorry for whoever takes Dan Rather’s place. These new anchors will be dead men walking.”
Orville Schell, who heads the University of California’s graduate school of journalism, says he was puzzled by the recent glut of stories speculating about who will replace Rather at CBS in March and whether NBC’s new anchor, Brian Williams, can fill Brokaw’s shoes. ”We may be making a huge effort to reinvent hood ornaments at a time when the vehicle itself is wearing out,” Schell warns. “I think network news is on the precipice. This is a real tipping-point moment.”
You don’t need to read tea leaves to see which way things might tip, just numbers. When Dan Rather took over as anchor of CBS Evening News in 1981, 69 percent of the television audience tuned in to the networks’ nightly broadcasts. When he leaves next year, the networks’ share of viewers will be less than 38 percent. The decline gets sharper all the time; for the week of Nov. 15, the network news audience was down 5 percent from last year. The average age of viewers who remain — over 56, according to Nielsen Media Research — suggests that ratings will continue to decline as the audience literally dies out. And even before that, advertisers — who seek viewers in the 18-to-49 age bracket — will flee. ‘If the ratings continue to erode, there’s a line below which ABC or CBS or NBC says, `Hey, maybe if we put on another reality show, we might get more viewers,’ ” predicts Paul Levinson, head of the communications school at New York’s Fordham University.
I grew up on nightly network newscasts but gave up on them years ago. They’re simply anachronisms in an era of instant information. Indeed, even my parents have quit watching, preferring to watch Fox or Headline News at their convenience. (via Michelle Malkin)