The History of Television News

The History of Television News


>>HELLO AND WELCOME
TO TALKING POINTS. I’M DAVE KELLY, DIRECTOR OF
ADVANCED MEDIA PRODUCTION AT CAL STATE LONG BEACH. TODAY WE’RE GOING TO TAKE
A LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION NEWS AND
WHY IT IS THE WAY IT IS. MY GUEST TODAY IS DR.
CHARLES PONCE DE LEON. DR. PONCE DE LEON IS A PROFESSOR
OF HISTORY AND AMERICAN STUDIES. WELCOME CHARLES AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON
TALKING POINTS.>>IT’S MY PLEASURE. THANKS FOR HAVING ME.>>WELL BEFORE WE START ON THIS
CONVERSATION WE SHOULD SHOW THE AUDIENCE YOUR BOOK WHICH
IS CALLED THE WAY IT IS: THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION
NEWS IN AMERICA. AND FOR THOSE OF US THAT HAVE
BEEN AROUND A WHILE WE KNOW WHERE THAT PHRASE COMES FROM. THE WAY IT IS THAT WAS THE TAG
LINE THAT WALTER CRONKITE USED AT THE END OF EACH OF HIS
CBS EVENING NEWS BROADCASTS THROUGHOUT THE SIXTIES
AND SEVENTIES. AND TRUTH BE TOLD, MOST
AMERICANS IF THEY WATCHED THAT NEWSCAST PROBABLY
AT THE END OF THE SHOW UNLESS THEY
WERE ESPECIALLY CYNICAL, PROBABLY AGREED THAT, WELL,
THAT PROBABLY IS THE WAY IT WAS. SO THAT IS SORT OF THE ESSENCE
OF THE BOOK IS HOW AMERICA AND AMERICAN ATTITUDES
ABOUT NEWS AND NEWS JOURNALISM
WERE SHAPED IN MANY WAYS BY TELEVISION IN THAT PERIOD. BUT YOU CAME TO SOME
INTERESTING CONCLUSIONS ABOUT TELEVISION
NEWS IN YOUR BOOK. WHAT WERE SOME OF
THOSE CONCLUSIONS?>>WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I WAS
INSPIRED TO WRITE THE BOOK BECAUSE I UNCOVERED OR
FOUND THEY WERE THERE, READILY AVAILABLE, SOME
EVIDENCE THAT SHOWED THAT THE CONVENTIONAL
STORY THAT WE HAVE THAT TELEVISION NEWS HAD
THIS WONDERFUL GOLDEN AGE AND THEN DEGENERATED INTO
INFOTAINMENT WELL I CAME ACROSS THINGS THAT SUGGESTED
THE STORY WAS A LITTLE MORE COMPLICATED AND SO
THAT’S WHAT LEAD ME TO RESEARCH AND WRITE THE BOOK. AND IN THE COURSE
OF DOING SO I CAME TO A RATHER DIFFERENT
CONCLUSION. THAT TELEVISION NEWS, IN FACT,
CHANGED BUT IT CHANGED IN WAYS THAT ARE NOT A STEEP DESCENT
INTO DRECK AND TRIVIALITY. THAT, IN FACT, THE STORY
WAS A LOT MORE COMPLICATED AND EVEN DURING IT’S SUPPOSED
GOLDEN AGE THERE WERE FORCES AND THERE WERE PRESSURES
AND THERE WERE FACTORS THAT LEAD TELEVISION
JOURNALISTS TO FEEL LIKE THEY WERE MAKING
COMPROMISES AND FORCED THEM TO PUT ON THINGS THEY
WOULDN’T HAVE OTHERWISE DONE.>>AND YOU MENTION THAT
TELEVISION WAS TELEVISION AND TELEVISION NEWS
WERE ALWAYS KIND OF WHAT YOU CALLED
AN AWKWARD FIT. WHAT DID YOU MEAN
BY AN AWKWARD FIT?>>YEAH, WELL, YOU KNOW THE
REAL PROBLEM THAT JOURNALISTS WHO DECIDED TO WORK
IN TELEVISION HAD IS THAT MOST AMERICANS FROM
THE BEGINNING OF TELEVISION IN THE 1940S REGARDED TELEVISION
AS AN ENTERTAINMENT MEDIUM. AND SO IT WASN’T
LIKE A NEWSPAPER. I MEAN PEOPLE HAD LOOKED TO
NEWSPAPERS FOR ENTERTAINMENT TOO BUT PEOPLE PRINCIPALLY, MOST
PEOPLE OPENED A NEWSPAPER, READ A NEWSPAPER TO AT
LEAST GET SOME SENSE OF WHAT WAS GOING
ON, AND GET NEWS. BUT TELEVISION BECAUSE IT BEGAN
AS AN ENTERTAINMENT MEDIUM AND THERE WERE VERY FEW
FACTORS THAT SORT OF LEAD IT IN A DIFFERENT PATH IT MADE
PUTTING ON NEWS PROGRAMS A KIND OF POWDER POINT TO THE
SORT OF DOMINANT EMPHASIS ON ENTERTAINING PEOPLE AND GIVING THEM STUFF
THAT THEY WANTED. AND SO TELEVISION JOURNALISTS
FROM THE START HAD TO DEAL WITH THAT AND HAD
TO FIGURE OUT WAYS OF PRODUCING WHAT THEY
REGARDED AS QUALITY JOURNALISM IN A MEDIUM THAT WASN’T
NECESSARILY WELCOMING.>>AND AS YOU MENTIONED
THERE WERE MARKET FORCES THAT FORCED TELEVISION TO GO
THE ROUTE OF INFOTAINMENT. INFOTAINMENT, OF COURSE,
MEANING THE COMBINATION OF INFORMATION MIXED
WITH ENTERTAINMENT. MOST PEOPLE THINK OF
NEWS AS HARD NEWS. BUT IN TELEVISION WE SAW THE
ADVENT OF A LOT OF SOFT NEWS OR FEATURE STORIES
INTERMIXED WITH THE HARD NEWS. AND SO WITH THAT AS YOU SAY
DESCENT INTO INFOTAINMENT AS OPPOSED TO JUST HARD
NEWS WHY WAS THAT NECESSARY?>>WELL FOR A NUMBER
OF YEARS THE NETWORKS THAT PRODUCED TELEVISION
NEWS PROGRAMS, ESPECIALLY THE NIGHTLY NEWSCAST, THE ONES FOR WHICH WALTER
CRONKITE WAS FAMOUS, WERE UNDER VERY FEW PRESSURES
IN TERMS OF PROVIDING AUDIENCES WITH WHAT AUDIENCES WANTED. SO IN OTHER WORDS
THEY WERE PROTECTED AND COULD REALLY BE
THEMSELVES THE JUDGES OF WHAT STORIES SHOULD
GO ON THE AIR AND HOW THOSE STORIES
SHOULD BE TREATED. AND IT WAS A POSITION
OF PRIVILEGE AND FOR REASONS LARGELY HAVING
TO DO WITH THEIR PRESTIGE WITHIN THE LARGER TELEVISION
NETWORK AS WELL AS A NEED TO PROVIDE THE PUBLIC WITH SOME
PUBLIC INTEREST PROGRAMMING WHICH WAS REQUIRED BY
THE FCC THEY ENJOYED THAT PRIVILEGED POSITION. BUT OVER TIME, WELL LET ME
ADD AND THIS IS CRUCIAL, THAT’S NEVER WHAT MOST
VIEWS EVER WANTED. AND SO THEY WERE ALLOWED
TO PRODUCE A KIND OF NEWS THAT CONSUMERS DIDN’T WANT
BUT WERE FORCED TO WATCH BECAUSE THERE WERE REALLY NO
OTHER THINGS ON TV AT THE TIME. VERY FEW OTHER COMPETING
CHANNELS IN MOST MARKETS, THREE OR FOUR STATIONS MAX. THREE OF THOSE, THE
THREE NETWORKS, AIRING NEWS AT EXACTLY
THE SAME TIME. AND SO THEY COULD IGNORE
THE WISHES OF THE PUBLIC. WHAT THE PUBLIC WISHED FOR WAS
A LOT MORE VARIETY, HARD NEWS, SOFT NEWS, FEATURES,
INFOTAINMENT. AND SO AS THE NETWORKS
EXPERIENCED MORE AND MORE COMPETITION FROM NON-NETWORK INDEPENDENT
STATIONS, ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT WERE ON THE UHF BAND FROM
CABLE, THEY WERE COMPELLED TO BEGIN TO CATER TO THE
PREFERENCES OF VIEWERS AND WHAT VIEWERS WANTED,
FOR BETTER OR WORSE, WAS FORMS OF INFOTAINMENT.>>AND YOU REFER TO THE
FRAGMENTATION OF THE MARKET IN TELEVISION NEWS AND WE’LL GET INTO THAT MORE A LITTLE
BIT LATER IN TERMS OF WHAT CABLE NEWS DID AND HOW
COUNTER PROGRAMMING AFFECTED THE TELEVISION NEWS MARKET
AND ALL OF THOSE ISSUES. SO WE’LL TALK ABOUT THAT IN
A MOMENT BUT FIRST LETS GO DOWN THE TRAIL OF HISTORY HERE. AND WE KNOW THAT
ACTUALLY TELEVISION NEWS, IF WE WANT TO REALLY GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING,
STARTS WITH RADIO. AND AS FAR AS ELECTRONIC NEWS IS
CONCERNED, RADIO WAS THE FIRST AND MOST COMPELLING
ELECTRONIC MEDIUM WITH NEWS AND WHY WAS THAT SO? WHY WAS RADIO UNIQUELY
POSITIONED TO BRING LISTENERS
NEWS OF THE WORLD?>>BY VIRTUE OF THE
FACT THAT THEY COULD, RADIO COULD PROVIDE IT
QUICKLY, IN A TIMELY FASHION, AND IN SOME INSTANCES ONCE
TECHNOLOGY HAD IMPROVED, INSTANTANEOUSLY. THOSE REPORTS THAT
EDWARD R. MURROW AND OTHERS FILED
DURING WORLD WAR II FROM EUROPEAN CAPITALS
WERE MADE POSSIBLE BY PHONE AND PHONE TRANSMISSION
AND RADIO TRANSMISSION. THOSE WERE COMPELLING BECAUSE
RATHER THAN READING SOMETHING ABOUT EVENTS THAT MAYBE HAPPENED
THE DAY BEFORE, YOU KNOW, YOU WERE ACTUALLY
LISTENING TO MURROW REPORT ON WHAT WAS OCCURRING
WHEREVER HE OR HIS COMRADES WERE STATIONED. SO IT WAS THE TIMELINESS AND IT
WAS THE IMMEDIACY AND OF COURSE, WHEN TELEVISION CAME AROUND AND ESPECIALLY ONCE
TECHNOLOGY IMPROVED SO THAT TELEVISION COULD PROVIDE
THOSE TYPES OF LIVE REPORTS, THE TIMELINESS OF KNOWING
EXACTLY WHAT WAS HAPPENING VERY QUICKLY AFTER IT
HAPPENED AS WELL AS THE IMMEDIACY WAS
EVEN MORE ENHANCED BECAUSE THERE WAS AN
ADDED VISUAL DIMENSION.>>SO IT WAS HERE AND NOW AND
IT WAS HEAR IT NOW ESSENTIALLY?>>YES.>>AND THEN AS TELEVISION CAME
ALONG TELEVISION THEN PROVIDED RADIO WITH PICTURES AND EDWARD
R. MURROW THEN HAD A PROGRAM CALLED SEE IT NOW NOT JUST
HEAR IT NOW BUT SEE IT NOW. AND SO THAT WAS ONE OF THE
FIRST INNOVATIONS OF TELEVISION. AND TELEVISION HAD TROUBLE
COMPETING WITH RADIO IN TERMS OF THE ABILITY TO BRING THAT
NEWS FORWARD WITH THE PICTURES THAT WERE APPROPRIATE AND SO
RADIO WAS STILL THE FIRST SOURCE OF NEWS IF PEOPLE REALLY
WANTED TO HEAR SOMETHING THAT WAS RIGHT CUTTING
EDGE AND SO FORTH. BUT TELEVISION DID COME ALONG
WITH TECHNOLOGY INNOVATIONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF TECHNOLOGY AND IN THE 1960S
WE SAW THIS SHIFT TO WHERE TELEVISION WAS REALLY WHERE THE ACTION
WAS, IF YOU WILL. AND I THINK THE POLITICAL
CONVENTIONS HAD A LOT TO DO WITH THAT. THE TECHNOLOGY WAS
AVAILABLE FOR THE NETWORKS TO COVER THE POLITICAL
CONVENTIONS AND THEN THE TURBULENCE OF THE
1960S WITH THE VIETNAM WAR. FIRST COVERAGE OF THE WAR ITSELF AND THEN THE PROTEST
MOVEMENTS RELATED TO IT, THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTS,
AND THE MOON LANDINGS. SO IF WE LOOK AT THE 1960S THE
WAY PEOPLE PERCEIVED THE EVENING NEWS ALSO CHANGED
AND WHAT HAPPENED WITH THAT CHANGE IN PERCEPTION?>>WELL I MEAN FIRST OFF IS WHAT
YOU MENTIONED EARLIER WHERE MORE AND MORE PEOPLE TURNED TO
NEWS BECAUSE THEY COULD, BY THE SIXTIES, GET
TIMELY INFORMATION IN THIS VERY POWERFUL
VISUAL WAY. AND I MEAN THERE IS
AN EASE OF CONSUMPTION AND THERE’S A CERTAIN
FASCINATION THAT PEOPLE HAD. UNDERSTANDABLY AFTER
READING ABOUT THINGS TO ACTUALLY SEE THEM OCCURRING
OR AT LEAST SEE A REPORTER IN A PLACE WHERE SOMETHING
BIG HAD JUST OCCURRED. BUT AT THE SAME TIME
AND IN SOME RESPECTS FOR THE SAME REASONS MANY PEOPLE
CAME TO DISTRUST TELEVISION NEWS AND THE REASON FOR
THAT IS COMPLICATED. I MEAN THE MOST IMPORTANT
IS THAT THE TELEVISION, ONCE TELEVISION NETWORKS
ACQUIRED THE TECHNOLOGY TO REALLY REPORT ON THE NEWS AND ONCE THEY WERE GIVEN HALF AN
HOUR RATHER THAN FIFTEEN MINUTES WHICH WAS THE TIME
OF THE ORIGINAL, THE LENGTH OF THE
ORIGINAL EVENING NEWSCAST, THEY VENTURED OFF
INTO DIRECTIONS THAT WERE NOT APPRECIATED
BY SOME VIEWERS. IN OTHER WORDS IN THEIR EFFORTS
TO PROVIDE A MORE COMPREHENSIVE AND A MORE ACCURATE
ACCOUNT OF WHAT WAS GOING ON SOME VIEWERS WERE UNHAPPY. THEY WOULD HAVE PREFERRED NOT
TO KNOW ABOUT THAT OR NOT SEE IT IN THE WAYS THAT THEY DID. I MEAN THERE WAS SOMETHING
VISUALLY POWERFUL, FOR EXAMPLE, ABOUT THE VISUAL IMAGES OF
URBAN UNREST IN THE SIXTIES. AND ITS ONE THING
TO READ ABOUT IT, IT’S QUITE ANOTHER TO SEE IT. AND IT WAS THE POWER OF THOSE
IMAGES AND THE POWER TO UNSETTLE THAT LEAD MANY PEOPLE NOT SO
MUCH TO DISTRUST TELEVISION NEWS BUT TO NOT BE VERY KEEN
ABOUT WATCHING IT AND BE WARY AND BECOME SKEPTICAL WHEN ALL
THIS SEEMINGLY BAD NEWS CAME OVER THE AIR AND INVADED
THEIR LIVING ROOMS.>>SO IN A SENSE
TELEVISION NEWS BECAME KNOWN AS UNWITTINGLY ADDING
TO THE POLARIZATION THAT MAY HAVE BEEN OCCURRING
IN THE COUNTRY AT THAT TIME?>>DESPITE DESPERATELY
TRYING NOT TO. I MEAN THE THING
ABOUT TELEVISION NEWS THAT MANY PEOPLE
MISUNDERSTAND IS THAT IT IS NOT, HAS NEVER BEEN, A
LIBERAL INSTITUTION. THERE IS NO SUCH THING
CALLED THE LIBERAL MEDIA, AT LEAST MASS MEDIA. IT WAS FUNDAMENTALLY A CENTRIST
MEDIA AND IT WAS ALWAYS TRYING TO COVER SUBJECTS AND
STORIES AND DEVELOPMENTS IN WAYS THAT WERE BALANCED. AND BALANCED BETWEEN
WHAT THE NETWORKS AND PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS
REGARDED AS REASONABLE OPINION. IN OTHER WORDS, A
COMMUNIST WOULD NOT BE A PART OF THAT NOR WOULD THE JOHN
BIRCH SOCIETY OR NAZIS. SO THERE WAS A GREAT INTEREST
IN BALANCE, IN OBJECTIVITY, BUT WITHIN WHAT THEY REGARDED
THE POLLS OF LEGITIMATE OPINION. AND SO THEY STRUGGLED
DESPERATELY NOT TO SEEM BIASED BUT, OF
COURSE, FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS HAVING NOTHING
TO DO WITH TELEVISION NEWS OR PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS
THE COUNTRY BECAME POLARIZED. SO THAT INCREASING NUMBERS OF
PEOPLE VIEWED THOSE ASSUMPTIONS AS UNDEMOCRATIC AND VERY
AUTHORITARIAN AND AS A RESULT, CAME TO CRITICIZE THE MEDIA FROM
BOTH THE RIGHT AND THE LEFT. AND SO IT’S THE CONSENSUS THAT
THE TELEVISION NETWORKS SOUGHT TO APPEAL TO AND HELP TO
CONSTRUCT THAT COLLAPSE AND ALL OF A SUDDEN MADE THE NETWORKS
AND THEIR JOURNALISTS VULNERABLE TO ACCUSATIONS TO BEING BIASED.>>AND ON THAT NOTE
WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO GO TO THE BREAK RIGHT NOW. WHEN WE COME BACK FROM
THE BREAK WE’RE GOING TO EXAMINE WHAT MANY
PERCEIVE TO BE THE ZENITH OF TELEVISION BROADCAST
NEWS IN THE 1970S. STAY WITH US. [ MUSIC ]>>MAKE A DIFFERENCE
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EXCITING FIELD WITH A DEGREE FROM CAL STATE LONG BEACH.>>HELLO AND WELCOME
BACK TO TALKING POINTS. I’M DAVE KELLY. MY GUEST TODAY IS DR.
CHARLES PONCE DE LEON. CHARLES WHEN WE WENT TO
THE BREAK WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE TURBULENCE OF THE
SIXTIES AND HOW THAT LEAD TO SOME TO PERCEIVE NEWS AS
BIAS IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. AND WE’RE GOING TO TALK A
LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THAT AND THE PERCEPTION OF BIAS AND HOW MARKET FRAGMENTATION
AFFECTED THAT LATER AFTER THE COMPETITION
FROM CABLE. BUT BEFORE WE WENT TO THE BREAK
I ALSO TEASED THAT WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE 1970S WHICH
MANY BELIEVE WAS THE ZENITH OR THE HIGH POINT OF
NETWORK TELEVISION NEWS. BY NETWORK TELEVISION NEWS, OF
COURSE, I MEAN NBC, ABC, CBS. AND THE REASON FOR THAT WAS
AFTER THE VIETNAM WAR ENDED AND AFTER THE WATERGATE HEARINGS
CONCLUDED THERE WAS THAT PERIOD IN THE MID SEVENTIES WHERE NETWORK NIGHTLY NEWS
REALLY HAD NO COMPETITION FOR A WHILE. THEY HAD LARGE BUDGETS, ALL
OF THEM, ALL THE NETWORKS. THEY WERE VERY COMPETITIVE. THEY WERE PAYING HIGH
SALARIES FOR THEIR ANCHORS. WE HAD PEOPLE LIKE WALTER
CRONKITE, HARRY REASONER, BARBARA WALTERS, JOHN
CHANCELLOR; FOLKS THAT HAVE BEEN AROUND A WHILE REMEMBER
THOSE NAMES. AND THEY ALSO HAD NEWS
BUREAUS AROUND THE WORLD AND SO LIFE WAS GOOD
IN THOSE DAYS BUT THINGS WERE ABOUT TO CHANGE. WHAT HAPPENED?>>WELL WHAT WAS GOOD
WAS THE RESOURCES AND TO HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY TO
BE ABLE TO, AT LEAST IN THEORY, PROVIDE BREAKING NEWS AND HAVE
A HOPE OF HAVING THE NETWORK CUT INTO REGULAR PROGRAMMING
IF SOMETHING BIG HAPPENED. WHAT WAS NOT SO GOOD IS THAT
IS ALL OF THOSE RESOURCES WHERE FOCUSED PRETTY
MUCH ON ONE PROGRAM AND THOSE WERE THE
NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS. BY THE 1970S THE NETWORKS
HAD PRETTY MUCH GIVEN UP DOCUMENTARIES. THEY STILL AIRED
FROM TIME TO TIME. BUT IN GENERAL, YOU
HAD ALL THESE BUREAUS, YOU HAD ALL THESE HIGH PRICED
ANCHORS AND CORRESPONDENTS, YOU HAD ALL THIS TECHNOLOGY,
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY, ALL FOCUSED ON ONE PROGRAM
THAT HAD A GOOD AUDIENCE BUT NOT THE AUDIENCE IT
EVEN HAD IN THE SIXTIES. AND THE REASON FOR
THAT IS BY THE MIDDLE OF THE SEVENTIES THERE
WAS NOW MORE COMPETITION. ONE REASON FOR THAT
IS IMPROVEMENTS IN TELEVISION TECHNOLOGY
AND IMPROVEMENTS IN RECEPTION UHF STATIONS WHICH
ARE THE ONES THIRTEEN AND ABOVE IN THE OLD SYSTEM
OF BROADCAST TV. WHICH ALL OF A SUDDEN LOOKED
BETTER THAN THEY EVER HAD AND IF PEOPLE WENT AND GOT CABLE
AS MORE AND MORE WERE DOING, ALL OF A SUDDEN THERE WAS
NO DISCERNIBLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VHF NETWORK
AFFILIATE AND A UHF STATION. AND SO MANY ENTREPRENEURS
BEGAN BUYING UHF STATIONS, SECURING LICENSES FROM THE
FCC, AND PROGRAMMING THEM. AND SOMETIMES ALL THEY COULD
AFFORD TO PROGRAM WERE RERUNS BUT LO AND BEHOLD, IT TURNED OUT AT SIX THIRTY
THERE WERE MANY PEOPLE WHO WOULD RATHER WATCH A RERUN
OF A PROGRAM THAT HAD AIRED IN THE EARLY SIXTIES OR LATE
FIFTIES THEN WATCH WALTER CRONKITE OR HIS COMPETITORS
ON THE NETWORKS. AND SO GRADUALLY EITHER
FROM UHF COMPETITORS OR FROM NASCENT CABLE
COMPETITORS LIKE TED TURNER’S
SUPERSTATION BASED IN ATLANTA, MORE AND MORE AMERICANS BEGAN
TURNING THE CHANNEL AWAY FROM NETWORK NEWS AND WATCHING
SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD. SO THAT BY THE MID-SEVENTIES
THE SHARE OF ALL TELEVISION HOUSEHOLDS IN
AMERICA WATCHING WITH THE SETS ON IN THE MID-SEVENTIES, SEVENTY
FIVE PERCENT WERE WATCHING NETWORK NEWS. IN THE MID-SIXTIES THAT
WAS NINETY PERCENT. SO ALREADY, ALREADY THE NUMBERS
HAVE GONE DOWN AND BY THE 1980S THAT NUMBER WOULD
PLUMMET BECAUSE MORE AND MORE CABLE STATIONS
WERE ESTABLISHED. ALL OF A SUDDEN CONSUMERS HAD
MORE AND MORE OPTIONS ABOUT WHAT TO WATCH AND THEY
VOTED WITH THEIR FEET. WHICH IS SOMETHING THEY PROBABLY
WOULD HAVE DONE LONG AGO IF THERE HAD BEEN OPTIONS BUT
THE POINT IS THERE WEREN’T.>>WELL SO TELEVISION NEWS THE
BROADCAST NIGHTLY NEWS PROGRAMS THEN HAD TO SUFFER FROM
ESSENTIALLY WHAT WAS A ONE, TWO PUNCH FROM CABLE
AND THESE OTHER STATIONS THAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT?>>YES.>>THE FIRST PUNCH WAS
THE COUNTER PROGRAMMING.>>RIGHT.>>WHERE YOU COULD WATCH
RERUNS OF STAR TREK INSTEAD OF WATCHING WALTER
CRONKITE OR JOHN CHANCELLOR. AND THEN SECOND PUNCH WAS
WHEN TED TURNER DECIDED TO DEVELOP THE CABLE
NEWS NETWORK. WHAT HAPPENED THEN?>>YEAH WELL, SO
ALL OF A SUDDEN, IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
SOONER BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO WANTED A MORE SERIOUS,
SOPHISTICATED TREATMENT OF THE NEWS WOULD OFTEN WATCH
THE MACNEIL/LEHRER NEWS REPORT ON PBS. OTHERS IN THE LATE SEVENTIES,
EARLY EIGHTIES FLOCKED TO NIGHTLINE ON ABC
WITH TED KOPPEL, AND THEN TED TURNER’S CNN. SO WHAT OCCURRED WERE
COMPETITORS THAT WERE BETTER AT DOING TELEVISION NEWS THAN A
HALF HOUR NETWORK NEWS PROGRAM AND MORE CONVENIENT TOO. MANY PEOPLE FOUND THAT WITH
THE REALITIES OF THEIR LIFE AND THE BUSY SCHEDULES IT
WAS EASIER TO WATCH NIGHTLINE AT ELEVEN THIRTY THAN IT
WAS TO GET HOME IN TIME TO WATCH THE SIX
THIRTY NEWSCAST. MOREOVER THEY FOUND
THAT THE TREATMENT OF THINGS WAS MORE
SOPHISTICATED ON NIGHTLINE OR ON MACNEIL/LEHRER
WHICH ALSO AIRED AFTER AND WAS DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY
TO COUNTER PROGRAM TO AIR AFTER THE NETWORK NEWSCAST
AND PROVIDE A KIND OF GLOSS ON A SIGNIFICANT STORY OR
STORIES THAT HAD BEEN COVERED BUT NOT IN THE DETAIL THAT
SOME VIEWERS WISHED FOR.>>AND THEN THERE WAS ALSO THE,
IF YOU WANT TO CALL IT THAT, THE ENCROACHMENT INTO NETWORK
NEWS BY THEIR LOCAL AFFILIATES. THE NETWORKS HAD A
NUMBER OF LOCAL AFFILIATES IN THE LARGER CITIES THAT
WERE BEING QUITE INNOVATIVE IN THOSE DAYS WITH
DEVELOPING NEW KINDS OF WAYS OF DELIVERING THE NEWS
AND CONNECTING MORE WITH THE VIEWERS DIRECTLY. AND ONE OF THOSE STRATEGIES
WAS CALLED NEWS YOU CAN USE. WHAT WAS NEWS YOU CAN USE
AND HOW DID THAT DEVELOP?>>NOW THAT WAS FEATURE
ORIENTATED NEWS THAT WAS PARTICULARLY KEYED
TO THE INTEREST OF PEOPLE AS CONSUMERS, FOR EXAMPLE. HEALTH NEWS, NEWS
ABOUT BUSINESSES THAT WERE SCAMMING PEOPLE,
YOU KNOW WHERE THEY WOULD SET UP HOTLINES WHERE THEY COULD
CALL UP AND COMPLAIN ABOUT IT, AND THEN SOMEONE
WOULD DO AN EXPOSE. BUT LOCAL NEWS WAS MAYBE THE
MOST IMPORTANT COMPETITOR OF ALL BECAUSE PBS, NIGHTLINE
ON ABC, CNN, THOSE WERE PRETTY
MUCH FOR NEWS JUNKIES. PEOPLE WHO MAYBE STILL
ALSO READ NEWSPAPER AND WERE REALLY INTERESTED
IN FOLLOWING THE NEWS. LOCAL NEWSCASTS DEVELOPED A
PARTICULAR KIND OF PROGRAM THAT APPEALED TO PEOPLE WHO
WERE REALLY NOT THAT INTERESTED IN NEWS BUT IT ACTUALLY KEPT
THEIR INTEREST AND WAS DESIGNED TO APPEAL TO INTERESTS THAT
WERE DIFFERENT FROM THOSE OF THE SERIOUS CONSUMER
OF HARD NEWS. AND THOSE PROGRAMS ORIGINATED IN
THE SIXTIES AND THEY ORIGINATED WHEN LOCAL STATIONS
WERE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO BETTER THE COMPETITION
AND BOOST REVENUES FROM LOCAL ADVERTISERS. AND THE FCC, IN THE EARLY
SIXTIES, REQUIRED THESE STATIONS TO CONDUCT SURVEYS TO SEE WHAT
THEIR VIEWERS THOUGHT OF THEM AND THEIR PROGRAMMING
AND NETWORK PROGRAMMING. AND ONE OF THE REVELATIONS
FROM THE SURVEY IS THAT HUGE MAJORITIES OF VIEWERS
DID NOT LIKE NETWORK NEWS. AND WITH THE ASSISTANCE
OF SOME SAVVY CONSULTANTS, LOCAL NEWSCASTERS
PERCEIVED A GAP IN THE MARKET AND SO THEY DEVELOPED
LOCAL NEWS PROGRAMS THAT AIRED BEFORE THE LOCAL
NEWS THAT WERE VERY DIFFERENT AND PROVIDED THE SOFT
NEWS, THE FEATURES, THE MORE ENGAGING
CONSUMER ORIENTED AND HEALTH ORIENTED THINGS THAT
PEOPLE WERE MORE INTERESTED IN. AND THEN WHEN THEY
DEVELOPED THEIR OWN STAFF AND THEIR OWN ACCESS
TO TECHNOLOGIES, THEY EVEN BEGAN REPORTING ON
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL NEWS AND SENDING THEIR OWN
PEOPLE, POPULAR LOCAL PEOPLE, LOCAL REPORTERS, PEOPLE THAT THE
AUDIENCE COULD IDENTIFY WITH, SENDING THEM TO VIETNAM,
SENDING THEM TO THE MIDDLE EAST. AND SO THEN IT BECAME
POSSIBLE BY THE MID-SEVENTIES TO WATCH A LOCAL NEWSCAST
AND GET, NOT ONLY LOCAL NEWS WHICH IS WHY PEOPLE ORIGINALLY
TUNED IN BUT NATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL NEWS
AT LEAST TO A DEGREE THAT SATISFIED MOST PEOPLE.>>AND SO NOW BROADCAST
NEWS, NETWORK BROADCAST NEWS, THE SIX O’CLOCK OR FIVE
THIRTY, OR SIX THIRTY NEWSCAST THAT WE SEE ON TELEVISION
WITH THE MAIN NETWORKS, MAIN BROADCAST NETWORKS, THEY’RE
DEALING WITH THE COMPETITION FROM CABLE, THEY’RE
DEALING WITH THE COMPETITION FROM THEIR OWN LOCAL AFFILIATES,
THEY’RE DEALING WITH NIGHTLINE WHICH COMES ON ELEVEN
THIRTY AS YOU MENTIONED, AND THERE’S ALSO THE
MORNING NEWS BROADCAST, SUCH AS TODAY SHOW WHICH
IS REALLY INFOTAINMENT AND GOOD MORNING AMERICA
WHERE THERE’S A HEAVY MIX OF THE ENTERTAINMENT
IN WITH THE NEWS. BUT THERE DID PERSIST THIS
NOTION OF BIAS IN THE MEDIA. WE TALKED ABOUT IT A
LITTLE BIT BEFORE THE BREAK. AND SOME FOLKS HAVE SUGGESTED
THAT THE NEWS MEDIA IS BIASED AND SLANTED TO THE LEFT;
HAS A LIBERAL BIAS, THE MAIN NETWORKS ABC,
CBS, NBC, AND EVEN CNN. AND AS A RESULT OF THAT FOX
NEWS WAS DEVELOPED ON CABLE AS BASICALLY A VEHICLE
FOR PEOPLE THAT IDENTIFIED WITH THE RIGHT TO
HAVE A HOME ON CABLE. WHAT ABOUT THAT AND
THAT NOTION OF BIAS? IS THERE ANYTHING TO IT AND
WHAT ABOUT THE SPLINTERING OR FRAGMENTING OF THE MARKET?>>WELL THE ORIGINAL
COMPLAINTS MADE AGAINST THE NETWORKS
WERE MADE IN PART BECAUSE CONSERVATIVES WERE A
MINORITY IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND HAD BEEN DISEMPOWERED
AND MARGINALIZED BY THE MODERATE REPUBLICAN
ESTABLISHMENT. AND SO THEIR VOICES, THEY FELT
THEIR VOICES WEREN’T’ HEARD. THAT ARGUMENT GAINED MORE
CREDENCE WHEN THE NETWORKS TRIED TO COVER VERY CONTROVERSIAL
SUBJECTS LIKE CIVIL RIGHTS AND VIETNAM IN AN OBJECTIVE WAY IN WHICH THEY PROVIDED
OPPORTUNITIES TO BOTH SIDES INCLUDING
CONSERVATIVES BUT ALSO INCLUDING RADICALS. AND SO WHEN, ALL OF A SUDDEN, THE KINDS OF PEOPLE WHO’D
NEVER SPOKEN ON THE NEWS BEFORE AS SOURCES, HE INTERVIEWED
HUEY NEWTON FOR EXAMPLE OR ANGELA DAVIS, ALL OF
A SUDDEN THEIR VOICES ARE ON TV IT WAS VERY EASY FOR
THE CONSERVATIVES TO CONCLUDE THAT THE MEDIA WAS BIASED. NOW, OF COURSE, WHAT THEY
DIDN’T ACKNOWLEDGE WAS THE FACT THAT THEIR OWN SPOKESMEN WERE,
IF ANYTHING, EVEN MORE VISIBLE AS SOURCES AS WERE THOSE OF
THEIR IDEOLOGICAL OPPONENTS. SO IT WAS IRONICALLY
THE EFFORT TO BE, TO COVER THINGS MORE
COMPREHENSIVELY AND PROVIDE AT LEAST SOME VOICES THAT HAD
BEEN OUTSIDE OF THE MAINSTREAM WITH ACCESS THAT SPARKED CHARGES
THAT THE MEDIA WERE BIASED. THE OTHER THING THAT’S IMPORTANT
TO NOTE IS THAT FOR MANY YEARS, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT
CAME TO FOREIGN POLICY AND VIETNAM WAS THE
PRIME EXAMPLE, THE MAJOR NETWORKS
HAD BEEN RATHER COZY WITH THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT AND ESPECIALLY WITH US FOREIGN POLICY
AND HADN’T CRITICIZED IT AND THEN FELT BURNED AND HAVING
BEEN BETRAYED WHEN IT TURNED OUT THAT THE MILITARY AND
THE GOVERNMENT WERE LYING ABOUT VIETNAM. AND SO THERE WAS A PERIOD IN THE
EARLY SEVENTIES IN PARTICULAR WHEN THE NETWORKS FINALLY TRIED TO BE TRULY AN INDEPENDENT
FOURTH ESTATE AND BE TRULY AND INDEPENDENT PRESS.>>MY LAST QUESTION
IS YOU MENTIONED OR ACTUALLY YOU DESCRIBED
YOUR LAST CHAPTER IN THE BOOK AS FADE TO BLACK. IN FIFTEEN SECONDS
OR LESS WHAT WAS FADE TO BLACK IN THAT CONTEXT?>>PEOPLE DON’T WATCH
NEWS ON TELEVISION ANYMORE AND THEY GET THEIR
NEWS FROM THE INTERNET AND NEWS WILL GRADUALLY, IF NOT
QUICKLY, STOP BEING SOMETHING THAT TELEVISION OFFERS.>>THAT’S A RATHER OMINOUS NOTE. BUT ON THAT NOTE WE HAVE
TO BRING THIS TO A CLOSE. UNFORTUNATELY THE CLOCK
IS NEVER ON OUR SIDE. BUT THANK YOU FOR
BEING HERE TODAY.>>SURE.>>AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON THIS EDITION OF
TALKING POINTS. JOIN US AGAIN SOON
FOR ANOTHER EPISODE. UNTIL THEN I’M DAVE KELLY. HAVE A NICE DAY.

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