What Happened to the Evening News?

David Writes!

I know, I know, I risk sounding like a get-off-my-lawn old guy, but seriously, the network news just ain’t what it used to be. In fact, a good bit of it isn’t even what I would call news.

I’m not talking about the feel good human interest pieces, those have always been a part of journalism, but when did viral videos become news?

It seems that anytime I have a chance to tune into the news, I get treated to the latest YouTube sensation. Since when did cute cats, talking babies and folks getting hit in the nuts become fare that rivals the important events of the day?

Add that to the celebrity gossip and not so subtle plugs for upcoming shows that have crept into the half hour time slot and sadly, our once venerated evening news has become a condensed version of a morning show. What’s next, “Here’s Tom Brokaw with a cooking segment?”

The other night, between ads for various prescriptions that all had a decent chance of killing me as a side effect, I learned that Pat and Vanna were “hammered” (yes, Brian Williams said hammered) while they taped some Wheel of Fortune episodes decades ago.

Earth shattering scoop, especially since it had already been all over the Internet that day. Try real hard to imagine Walter Cronkite reporting on tipsy game show hosts… go ahead, try.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Wink Smiley was found to be somewhat inebriated at the Desilu Studios last evening while filming What’s My Deal. And that’s the way it is…” Personally, I just can’t see him squeezing that in between the moon landing and Vietnam War news.

I understand that the networks are in a bind these days, Cronkite only had two televised competitors, unlike the dozens of cable news outlets and websites streaming into our homes today.

This has undoubtedly changed the business by forcing extreme competition, unfortunately not for quality of content but for advertising dollars.

Until the 1990s the networks didn’t expect their news divisions to show a profit. To avoid influence from sponsors news was treated as “off the books.”

It was considered part of the public service requirements to the FCC and a way to build public trust. Not anymore, now the news is seen as a revenue generator and is treated just like any other entertainment programming. It’s all about ratings.

A couple of years ago our oldest daughter left her job at a major network to go to work for a company on the internet side of the news. Her old dad was a tad set back by this move until she explained how everybody has already seen every story by the time it reaches the evening news. She decided, correctly I think, that the future of real broadcast journalism, as opposed to “infotainment,” is online.

What is the best way to for network news to compete with the Internet? Trying to become more like the Internet? It seems to me that the networks would have a much better shot at attracting, and keeping, an audience if they took the opposite tack and tried to be less like the Internet.

Use the airtime to go in depth and do some real analysis of the stories we already heard earlier in the day, with live interviews featuring real newsmakers, footage from around the globe, things websites would have a hard time duplicating. The networks do some of this now, but it is generally over within the first ten minutes of the broadcast. Then the fluff begins.

Is it just me, or does everybody lose interest when the video for the guy on the bike getting tackled by a wildebeest shows up on the screen? Once again, close your eyes and imagine Walter Cronkite reporting on that.

Not that they want my advice, but it seems to me that the network news should strive to be above all of this nonsense. We already have YouTube for those talking dog diversions. Stick to the news!

Oh, and get off my lawn.

David, GypsyNester.com

Your Turn: Do you think the evening news has changed for the better or worse? What is your primary news source? Internet? TV? Newspaper? Have I turned into a get-off-my-lawn old guy? Leave us a comment!

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26 thoughts on “What Happened to the Evening News?”

  1. You have voiced our sentiments almost word-for-word. Some nights we turn the TV off before the news is over. Local news is every drive-by shooting or hit-and-run accident, while the national news is just as you’ve described it. Oh, how I long for the days of Cronkite, Brokaw, even Huntley and Brinkley. The PBS News Hour, as mentioned already, is the only serious news provider left. The others are all a joke and bought and paid for by someone who has more money than we! Thanks for saying what we all feel.

  2. Old paradigm network news has lost it appeal primarily because it has become the ‘bought and paid for’ mouthpiece for the government.

    It is that main reason that independents, such as your daughter, have taken to the streets and the internet with their iPads and video cameras to report the ‘real’ news as it happens.

    It doesn’t look like the old news channels will ever get it figured out. That’s okay. The new journalists are definitely picking up that slack and becoming very successful while providing ‘We The People’ with important and timely information.

    Great article! Thanks.

  3. Add one more gripe to all of the above, the blatant plugs at six o’clock news to watch the breaking stories at 11. If its breaking news and they have the story now, show it NOW! Why advertise what’s coming at 11? We never watch at 11. Just as easy to watch the next morning. It was old by 6:30, older by 11 so seeing it at 7 AM is just as good!

  4. There are some independent journalists that are doing some excellent work reporting real news, but you won’t find them on the corporate owned networks. Seek and you will find!

  5. Hello Gypsy’s! Unfortunately the America that you are referring to w/Walter Cronkite and the ”core news” of that day is over, and it will never be the same. No. I don’t think Cronkite or Brokaw would spend time on a cat or elephant video. My daughter opted out of cable, because she gets her news from the internet. However, there is a very large demographic, the ones that travel, as you all do and own their own homes, still believe in C.C.’s and live within their means and they are a very large demographic. The folks from 60-90+ and they are a vital and substantial group and they feel the internet is stupid, or they’re just not interested in it. My father is 91 , my mother is 87, and they have a large number of friends in their age group. I can’t help but admire their values, sacrifice to our country, really worked hard for what they have and believe in living within their means. So, while this might apply to 60, 50, and below..I don’t think they’ll ever change to a great degree. I find this somewhat comforting. They aren’t dead, alot will live a long time, and the younger end of the spectrum believes as they do. I think they are the generation I admire most. The news as we know and see it is like The National Enquirer, not a news broadcast. When they report on Egypt and then the name of the Kardashian’s baby, it doesn’t make journalistic sense. Once again, it’s all about money and rating’s. If it weren’t for these people we wouldn’t be able to do all that we do. This is my solicited opinion. You all can walk on my lawn anyday. Remeber all people: These elders in Chapter 3 are real, they exist, they are vital and they are too often ignored and looked down on as out-of-touch. Ha. They could have the last laugh. They are well informed, believe me. I enjoy your travels and stories, pic, Kiss the cheek of a Senior when it’s appropriate. It will make your day. I keep telling my younger family members and friends These people exist. They are not falling off the cliff and they will leave when God calls them home. Sometimes we forget them, and many are on the internet, they just don’t post silly or fantastic posts and blogs. How did my post become an epistle? Ha. Have fun!!!

    1. Thanks, we agree. My rant was meant to be directed at the media and the shabby job of news coverage they do these days, certainly not at those of us who still watch it. And amen on the kissing a senior!

  6. We quit watching TV completely a few years ago as we refuse to pay for TV and where we live there is no free TV reception. It’s embarrassing what they call news on TV now days. I did used to like to watch the BBC news as they didn’t have as much “fluff”. We do still like some of the shows and like to sit and relax with a movie or show in the evening. We do this by going to the library and checking them out. It is fun to watch the TV series without the commercials.

    1. One of the beauies of spending most of our time in an RV (with no satellite) is that we don’t see much TV. We do like to watch movies… Redbox rocks for that.

  7. The networks have sold their souls to the consuming public whose followership determines if the nets live or die. I grew up in the “turbulent” 60s where nothing went unchallenged. Only a select few newsmen commanded the utmost respect of the public. Today we have infotainers who aspire for celebrityhood at the expense of reporting facts. We’ve gone Deep South as a discerning consumers of information hungry for facts. The major nets and cable news are mere tabloid shadows of what once was news. Accessibility to current events will eventually mane news reporting obsolete. Any news organization that serves as the mouthpiece of the “establishment” deserves scorn. I seek out the Wolfman Jack types in radio news and talk shows who challenge convention and dare to go against the grain.

  8. If the network news is losing us “get of my lawn” and “the music is too loud” types, they’re toast. The typical commercial line up on the Evening News is: Cialis, Depends, Centrum Silver, and then cialis again. Seriously People, the music is waaay too loud. 😉

  9. I’m not a national news viewer anymore, but I do listen to public radio almost exclusively. NPR continues to provide the in-depth stories that are sadly lacking on the network news stations, and typically beats the commercial venues with breaking stories as well. And my friends and family rib me for starting every sentence with, “I was listening to NPR today and….”

  10. PBS is our source. Nothing on network news interests us much as it is not news but the fluff everyone has mentioned. I thought that CBS was going to make a change with extended coverage early last month only to be disappointed in that the extended coverage was extended coverage of the garbage we already dislike. Now we not only get to see the wildebeast vs biker, but we get to hear exactly how and wear it was filmed and what the photographer was wearint at the time of the shoot! I always respected Charlie Rose on PBS and here he is on morning news talking about the wildebeast!! Add to all this, a goodly share of the morning news is advertisement for that channels EVENING news which we have to wait all day for. I’m inclined to stick with the printed word in the newspaper which I choose the news I want to see.

  11. You are totally right! The so-called news is not even worth watching any more. The only one we make an exception for is Brian Williams. The cable news channels are just talking heads interrupting each other and seeing who is the loudest.

  12. I agree as well. How about some national and international news? Some indepth coverage? I hate when the 10pm news spends at least 10 minutes plugging shows on their station. Is there nothing going on in the rest of the world?

  13. I agree totally, they’re not reporting they’re commentationg. Their opinions are now part of the news. What’s with that?

  14. “Use the airtime to go in depth and do some real analysis of the stories we already heard earlier in the day, with live interviews featuring real newsmakers, footage from around the globe, things websites would have a hard time duplicating…” Yes, this is why I listen to NPR every morning. Forget network news. And the PBS and BBC options are much better for TV viewing, but since we cut the cable, I only watch PBS!

  15. I stopped watching the news a few years ago…I realized it was only doom-and-gloom stories or things that weren’t actually news. Maybe someday they’ll regain my trust.

  16. we watch the bbc channel for news – not only are they true hard stories, but you get an international/world view that isn’t seen here in the states
    We don’t even bother with the major and local new networks anymore for just the reasons you state. . .as we get older we really want intelligent and relevant stories. haven’t watched the morning news shows for at least 10 years. I check in with them once in a while, and they are all so dumb.
    My daughter was a newspaper reporter in Pittsburgh and Rochester; she left being disgusted that most of the feature pieces she was assigned were fluff for an advertiser! there was little money or time for true investigative reporting.

  17. We’re not quite old enough to be chasing youngsters off our lawns, and we noticed the same thing. There is very little hard news in any of the 30 minute “World” news programs from the three major networks. In fact, there is very little world news at all.

    I imagine that most folks get there news elsewhere and the nightly news casts can’t compete, so they are gravitating toward lighter entertainment type of segments. The PBS News Hour is the only program that still tries to be serious and I find myself watching that instead.

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