Ed Driscoll

Donaldson Declares Network News Dead

Gotta give Sam Donaldson credit for seeing the obvious and not sticking his head in the sand. A Broadcasting & Cable article begins:

Former ABC News reporter/anchor Sam Donaldson is ready to say the last rites for network news because it will soon lose its dominant position as Americans’ primary source of news. “I think it’s dead. Sorry,” he said during a breakfast panel Tuesday at the National Association of Broadcasters’ convention in Las Vegas. “The monster anchors are through.”

Even though 30 million viewers still turn to networks news each night and garner ratings well above CNN and Fox News, networks news operations long ago lost their role as the sources Americans rely on during time of major breaking news, said Donaldson

“God forbid, if someone shot the President, which network would you turn to? It will be cable, the Internet–something other than General Hospital being interrupted.”

Increasingly, viewers will continue turning to alternative sources for everyday news as well, he said.

Donaldson was joined on the panel by CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield and CBS Sunday Morning’s Charles Osgood, both of whom were less pessimistic about network news’ future.

“If it’s dying, it’s dying a very slow death,” Greenfield said. Although the network news monopoly was “smashed” by cable, broadcast news will redefine itself, thought he didn’t yet know how.

Here are some suggestions from last fall, although I’m not holding my breath for their implementation.

Back to the Broadcasting & Cable piece:

Osgood said the network news can remain competitive with other platforms but must be constantly reevaluated to remain competitive–a fact that makes him glad he’s at the tail end of his career rather than the beginning. “It used to be when we wanted to make a show more appealing to more people, the first thing we did was design a new set.”

Yes, a new coat of paint, craptacular graphics and new furniture really does always trump content on TV news, doesn’t it?

The three also agreed that that Internet bloggers have had a generally positive impact on news because mainstream reporters are forced to better verify their information and pare opinions out of their work or face he wrath of scrutinizing critics.

As Glenn wrote yesterday about a related story, that’s a surprisingly positive attitude towards their competitors. It certainly beats the hysterical cries from the technology-clueless legacy press that Matt Drudge faced early in his career, and the shots about guys in their pajamas from Jonathan Klien (now at CNN) last fall.