Heyday of network news may be over

Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 12:13 a.m.
Enlarge |

CBS anchor Dan Rather, right, listens alongside NBC anchor Tom Brokaw during a panel discussion titled "From Where We Sit" in New York on Oct. 2.

The Associated Press
With big-hitting news anchors Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather leaving their posts, University of Florida journalism professors say that the future of broadcast news is an uncertain one.
NBC's Brokaw signs off today and CBS's Dan Rather leaves in the spring, leaving ABC's Peter Jennings as the sole veteran news anchor. Brian Williams will replace Brokaw on the NBC Nightly News, but no replacement has been named for Rather. The resignations of Brokaw and Rather could lead to a decrease in already wilting evening news viewership, said UF journalism professor Mike Foley.
"There's been a steady decline in TV news viewership," Foley said Tuesday. "People have their favorites and when these guys leave, they won't watch as much."
In November 1993, 40.7 million Americans tuned in to the three network giants to get their nightly news, according to Nielsen Media Research Data. But as of November 2004, only 25.9 million households are watching the evening news broadcasts, according to the data. Foley said he believes the downward trend is fueled by cable news competition and advances in technology.
"Communication is instantaneous," Foley said. "The competition is overwhelming. The networks rise to the occasion on big stories, but unless a personality comes along with enough charisma to lure audiences back, I don't see a return of the good old days."
And although Americans have instant access to the news through cable networks and the Internet, credibility - or the lack of it - is the biggest threat to broadcast news, said William McKeen, chair of the UF Department of Journalism.
"I wonder what's going to happen next," McKeen said of evening news. "Those guys had a lot of credibility and they've squandered some of that capital in the last 10 years because entertainment conglomerates are deciding what's news."
"When the first big story on the morning news is about 'Desperate Housewives' or Donald Trump's show - and the networks put that on as if it's news, that's lost credibility," McKeen said.
During the reign of anchor legends such as Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, audiences turned to the three networks to get their news, making the evening newscast part of their daily dinner routine. Cronkite, who signed off with his signature phrase, "And that's the way it is," was someone people could trust and look to for the truth, McKeen said.
But with so many sources of information, David Ostroff, chairman of the UF Department of Telecommunications, said that Americans are no longer tuning in to the networks as their sole source of news.
"The role of the anchor as this centralized figure of authority is no longer relevant," Ostroff said. "I don't think people need that anymore."
Deborah Ball can be reached at (352) 374-5036 or balld@gvillesun.com.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top