Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hoisting the Anchor...

Note: This was originally published on "The Jackrabbit's Den" on April 20, 2008. -jr1

There has been a lot of talk lately about CBS News... the crown jewel of the "Tiffany Network" has been taking a lot of hits over the past few years. First of all, it was the "Memogate" episode in which host Dan Rather aired a dubious document about Dubya's time in the Air National Guard. That gave CBS a pretty big black eye in the terms of credibility, but it looked like things were on the upswing after Rather stepped down from the anchor desk and Bob Schieffer took over in the interim.

Frankly, I liked Bob. He knew he was in a "storekeeper" mode with the show until someone "better" came along(I know that feeling all too well!), but he really seemed to build back a lot of trust that had all but disappeared just a few short months before. In fact, viewer numbers were increasing as well. I think in a lot of ways, Schieffer reminded a lot of people of Walter Cronkite... an elder statesman that stuck to the facts, without personal bias or hidden agendas. People like me really appreciate that, especially since we have Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olberman, Rush Limbaugh, and Ed Schultz constantly bombasting us with their opinions.

And then there was Katie.

It seemed like a novel approach. Take a very popular host from a very popular show to freshen up the news cast. I was looking forward to seeing Ms. Couric take on a more serious tone, to really let her journalistic chops fly. In fact CBS even got good ol' "Uncle Walter" off his sailboat long enough to record the introductory voice-over as a symbolic "passing of the torch".

After an outstanding first month of ratings, the program dropped like the proverbial stone.

I think a lot of it has to do with image. For the better part of two decades, Couric was the perky, giggly person who got people's mornings off to a good start on "Today." I think that image, combined with an emphasis on "soft" stories put in the minds of many people that Couric, whether accurate or not, lacked the gravitas to do hard news. And it eroded the credibility of CBS even further.

Now the scuttlebutt is that CBS is looking to replace Couric before her contract is up. Some speculate that it may even happen before the political conventions this summer. While both Couric and CBS deny the rumors, enough buzzing is going on about it that makes one wonder if there isn't some merit.

IF Couric leaves, as has been suggested, the question becomes "Who takes over?" Schieffer says he's not interested in the big chair, citing his age. Frankly, if I got dumped on my derrière like that, I probably wouldn't be too keen on going back for more, either. Others like Randall Pinkston, John Roberts, and Lara Logan keep popping up as in-house reporters who have anchor experience and could take over.

But here's a little bit of juicy speculation, especially for you conspiracy buffs.

Right now, CBS is looking at outsourcing much of the news department's work and resources to CNN. If this should happen (and from the reports of CBS News laying off personnel, it just might.), I wonder if someone like Anderson Cooper or Christianne Armanapour could find themselves at "Black Rock"?

It could be a win-win situation. CBS would regain credibility in the news world with an established journalistic presence but at a much-lower price than Couric's $15-million a year asking fee. It would also cement the agreement between both networks, should that come to fruition. It could make CBS the big kid on the block once again.

Or it could blow up in their faces, and CBS will have to spend the next 30 years trying to climb out of the cellar while pundits bemoan the demise of a once-great organization.

On the Air (so to speak!)

Welcome to my new blog, vox vocis desumo, which is Latin for "The Voice Electric".

This new venture of mine will delve into the world of electronic media, i.e. Broadcasting. Thus the reason for the clever name. While there are a lot of blogs out there that deal with TV shows and the like, I'd like to go a bit more "behind the scenes", talking about issues facing broadcasters (and perhaps educating a few non-broadcasters along the way), technology, business, and so on.

I'll still keep "The Jackrabbit's Den" up and running, but that will be for more personal news and current events. This may flourish, it may fail, but I gotta give it a try.

And if you'd like to contribute to this blog, please drop me a line at and we can talk about it.

Thanks and enjoy!