Friday, April 29, 2005

CBS: The Flying Coyote?

It may be hopeless. The Volkswagen Bug was overtaken by, among other things, emissions regs. To meet ever more stringent standards, more and more diaphragms, breathers, rebreathers and hoses were needed, all attached to the basic carburetor as an afterthought, like eyebrow rings. The transverse-mounted front wheel drive of the VW Rabbit raced away from the Bug effortlessly. Where is the Rabbit, or even VW now? CBS is operating with a 1953 Buick gameplan, the anchor, reading the news. By the end of the day, who doesn't already know what 'the news' is from car radios, radios on the job, talk radio, web/internet connections etc.? They need to stop competing with all that and compete to engage and keep viewers, and that's what they would be, viewers. Run news coverage in depth, on particular issues and subjects, over several days and weeks. Lose the 22 second bite! Be more intelligent, and learned, certainly less preachy and contemptuous. CBS news as episodic movie serial, with depth. No more pretend experts, no pontificating anchors, (they have neither the gravity nor the morality for that anyway), no info babes, and lose the unblinking eyes, head tilted to one side," see how much concern and care I have" posturing of the interviewer on special reports. Lose the damn hubris. When someone answers a question, "Seven", don't repeat with mock-serious incredulity, "Seven?". Quit trying to trick people, catch people, smear people, steer elections, and promote or disgrace political candidates with commissions, omissions, hit pieces and manure pieces! Steve Allen put together roundtable discussions between Aristotle, Newton, Henry VII and Luther. Next Generation Star Trek had Steven Hawking playing poker with Einstein, Newton and Data. Surely CBS can do as well. The news readers are not stars, and need to but out.

And the last, most difficult of all. Quit rooting for the other side to win in the war, just because your guy isn't in the White House. Otherwise your anchors, and the network news will continue on the same path Wile E. Coyote took, holding onto the anchor, as he stood on the precipice. It gave way without warning. Spreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssss. Boom....!

And Another Thing: CBS and the TV networks adopted the Hollywood-Star template with the evening news. The face on the screen another Gary Cooper. They should have picked Samuel Pepys or Thucydides. Before any seachange, their ship may have to burn to the waterline. I'd say all the topmasts are now ablaze. Also, go read Bruce Giese. Humor and insight: a deadly duo.

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