Thursday, June 09, 2005

How CBS must fix the 'Evening News'

Source: Media Life Toni Fitzgerald seems to think he has the answer for CBS to be a player in the 'Evening News' war. Fitzgerald writes:

This is what CBS should do to become relevant again:

1. Sign on a female anchor. This should be a no-brainer. A woman anchor would bring a different and fresh perspective to the news. The buzz alone would draw viewers. It would also draw women. Female news viewership has dipped on all three networks this year. There are lots of female anchors already on cable, such as Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren and CNN’s Paula Zahn. And there are a number of network newswomen who would be a good fit for CBS, including NBC’s Katie Couric and ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas. ABC's Robin Roberts or CBS's own Hannah Storm would also be good choices.

2. Juice it up. The nightly news is stale news. News shows for years got by regurgitating the front page of that morning's New York Times. It doesn't work anymore, not with the constant updates on cable news shows and the internet. Network nightly news has to be that afternoon's news, not yesterday's. That means up-to-the-minute reports from Wall Street and Washington as you see on cable news. Nightly news must also be entertaining, covering pop culture, for example. America is enormously entertained by Britney Spears’ love life and Tom Cruise’s various relationships. Why shouldn't nightly news viewers be as well? Bring on the personalities. Open up a few minutes for debate on a hot topic with fun, opinionated people like Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly or Al Franken. Let Howard Stern or other equally outrageous guests rant about whatever. So what if they offend some viewers? At least they'll stay awake.

3. Go shorter and smarter. Come 6:30, no one wants to sit through an interminable book report on much of anything. Monday’s stories on outlawing medical marijuana seemed interminable. Stories need to be shorter, snappier, and have some unique angle. A short feature can be just as intelligent as a long one.

4. Ditch the depressing stories. Leave that to the newspapers. It’s a common misperception that young people don’t watch the news because they don’t care. Wrong. They don’t watch the news because it’s too depressing. CBS in particular needs to do a better job of delivering interesting stories that are not by definition depressing. People turn on the news to learn, not to attend a funeral.

5. Take a page from ESPN. The network’s 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” focuses on analysis and reaction rather than a retread of the news that people have already read on the internet. It poses so-called Burning Questions to its correspondents at the top of every show, offering perspective on the day’s events.

6. Lastly, hire more young correspondents. They’ll have a different idea of what’s important and attract more young viewers. Raid MTV News if you have to.


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