On a day when the very recognisable TV face of ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff...
... gets blown to pieces in Iraq, former ABC newsman Ted Koppel writes his first column for the NY Times.
Apparently Woodruff was in Iraq as part of a new ABC company policy of sending anchors on site, a move designed to improve ratings (and you thought it was to improve accountability?!?!):
"Moving away from the studio -- the hermetically sealed, perfectly coiffed theory of anchoring -- there is risk in that," ABC News President David Westin told Kurtz. "In my view, the greater risk is keeping it the way it was." The risk is that network news audiences will continue to shrink as younger viewers, in particular, seek faster, edgier reports elsewhere.Ironically, Koppel's first column addresses exactly this issue:
In a surprise conclusion, he suggests that perhaps rather than aiming news shows at the disinterested younger segment, the networks should focus on serving older consumers who actually are interested in serious news.In Koppel's own words:
Most television news programs are therefore designed to satisfy the perceived appetites of our audiences. That may be not only acceptable but unavoidable in entertainment; in news, however, it is the journalists who should be telling their viewers what is important, not the other way around.I fully agree that journalists should be telling the important stories (some still are), but I cannot agree with Koppel's broader analysis of the problem:
Indeed, in television news these days, the programs are being shaped to attract, most particularly, 18-to-34-year-old viewers. They, in turn, are presumed to be partly brain-dead...
The accusation that television news has a political agenda misses the point. Right now, the main agenda is to give people what they want. It is not partisanship but profitability that shapes what you see.In this case, it is Koppel who misses the point. If it was just profitability, rather than politics, why wouldn't news companies be blowing the lid on all the Bush cabal's sordid secrets? Honestly, there is enough material there to have the USA glued to the TV screen (or printed page) for years.
Let's start with Bush's grandfather... the Illuminati and Skull & Bones ... Bush Snr's involvement in the Kennedy assassination... Bush family links with the Saudis and bin Ladens ... the Carlyle Group ... that cocaine thing ... that AWOL thing ... that wireless transmitter thing ... that PNAC thing ... the Downing Street Memo ... Valerie Plame ... Abramoff and DeLay ...
I can't help wondering if Woodruff was filming one of those "good news from Iraq" segments when the ambushers hit...? And if he can make it back on air, I can't help but wonder what sort of story he will have to tell?
And then I wonder: would ABC news have the courage to stick with a once-telegenic anchor whose face has been stitched back together? Maybe that would attract the younger viewers? Maybe that would be enough for soporific US TV audiences to understand the horrors they have been unleashing on Iraqis for the past three years???