The shape of things to come?

The Guardian carries an account of the career of Dan Rather, anchorman on CBS Evening News for the last 23 years, after his declaration of intent to stand aside on the 24th anniversary of taking on that role in March next year. The role of bloggers in that decision merits only a few lines in the report, but it was their criticism of his report on Bush’s National Guard service record that led directly to Rather being pushed.

Perhaps the Guardian is still smarting from their own Clark County Fiasco, but a more thorough look at Rather’s demise would surely have dwelt on the influence of the blogosphere a little longer.

With references such as “distinguished and often aloof”, “grizzled, patrician and often patronising” The Guardian also seems prepared to overlook the accusation that the decision to carry the discredited report on Bush’s Texas National Guard service was politically motivated, “Despite all his adventures, all his gravitas, all his pomp, conviction and humanity, the obituary writers gathered around Rather’s career had one thing on their minds: George Bush and the Texas national guard.” – it refers to the report itself as an “error”, an understatement of the actual charged levelled against Rather.

As it is the article does make some good points on “the last hurrah of a television age that is fast disappearing, replaced by a world where viewers are as likely to get their news from the internet and 24-hour rolling cable news channels as they are from the trusted main networks.” – Tom Brockaw of NBC news is also stepping down, leaving “66-year-old Peter Jennings [ABC] hanging on, suddenly the only remaining member of the journalistic triumvirate that has shaped America’s view of the world and of itself for the past 50 years.”

Viewing figures are tumbling for news on the major US networks and the report raises the question of whether the commitment still exists among executives to follow a loss-leading news model of previous decades.

Marty Kaplan of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication provides the quotes, “The best one can say for the evening news broadcast is that they still have the largest town square in the country. To the degree that there is a common culture left, they command it.”

And the lines that will resonate with media watchers here – “Network news is now a subsidiary of entertainment. The people really in the driving seat about whether the evening news will survive are the advertisers. If they decide there are better places to advertise then my guess is that the affiliates will be thrilled to have an extra half hour.”

Meanwhile, politicians this side of the Atlantic still rely on Old World methods to pressurise the media. Conserative Party leader, Michael Howard has made an official complaint against his old nemesis Jeremy Paxman – just doesn’t seem to carry the same resonance when a politician complains does it?

Not that any of the political parties in our little land would attempt such tactics, would they?

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