Now Cough

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Destroy the Village

Stop the Madness

Last week The New York Times Week in Review section ran an article outlining the recommendations of four TV and TV news experts on how to 'fix' network news. They talked about everything from anchors to sets.

After all, viewership has plummeted for the nightly news programs. And now that Brokaw, Koppel, Jennings and Rather are going or gone, anyone with eyes and an opinion can now weigh on to repair TV news.

My response is, why bother? Really. It can't be fixed, per se.

Here are my recommendations:

1. Cable news operations should end 24/7 news coverage. The first one that does so will be forced to make harder news decisions about what is really valuable to the audience. You can't tell me that correspondents or editors like going live to the Michael Jackson trial. The audience, honestly, could care less.

2. Fill the non-news time with almost anything from Comedy Central -- if CNN bought rights to the previous evening's Jon Stewart and, let's say, Nightline programs, that would be a plus.

3. No car chases, no fires, no trials except wall-to-wall coverage of the Supreme Court and bizarre doings at the state level.

4. Only have solo anchors.

5. Weather without weather men/women

6. News operations should collaborate on White House and Pentagon press conferences to put focused questions and pressure on public offficials.

7. Boycott obviously manufactured news 'events.' The world will not end if this stufff is not covered. It sounds so obvious, butt the fact that no network has done recommendation 1. means it is impossible to tackle recommendation 7.

8. Hire more experienced Brits and Canadians to cover the US. They are simply tougher.

9. Quadruple the investment in covering China and Asia.

10. Let every producer, network reporter and editor have blogs. Promote them.

11. Invite regular viewers to join major reporting trips. Let them report on what they saw.

12. Relentlessly critique the press in prime time.

13. Restore documentary units in every news division separate from entertainment divisions. Shutter Dateline.

14. Take some lessons from Nightline: exclusives on important issues of the day do matter. Single subject programs even for the nightly news can work.

15. Set an independent agenda. Remember what journalism is.

16. End so-called kickers. Put in essays, citizens essays, instead.

17. Use the extensive on-the-record statements of pols and policymakers to hold them accountable.

18. Appoint smart and combative people to run network news divisions -- people who will both lead and have the courage to set an agenda of what should be covered.

19. Stop copying Fox and MSNBC

20. Be willing to align forces with major print and online news organizations and with citizens.

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