Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Three Faces Of Evening News

Unbelievable. Yet again, there was no Nightly News Saturday or Sunday on the east coast. On Sunday, hockey was obviously more important (translation: more profitable) than news. And on Saturday, there was no news because of the Kentucky Derby. Now, the Kentucky Derby is a two-minute race. But NBC pre-empted Nightly News so they could air three hours of Derby coverage. Proportionally, that would be the equivalent of airing 360 hours of Super Bowl coverage for a four-hour game. Maybe I shouldn't mention that--I don't want to give NBC any ideas.

NBC's commitment to news is...well, actually NBC has no commitment to news. They pre-empt the weekend edition of Nightly News so frequently that they might as well abandon it altogether. Which is why it is so puzzling to hear NBC News president Steve Capus talk about expanding the weeknight edition of Nightly News from a half-hour to a full hour (as he was quoted as saying in the March 9 New York Times business section). Judging by how often NBC pre-empts the weekend edition of Nightly News, they seem to care little for the broadcast. Yet, at the same time, they talk of expanding the weeknight edition. With regard to Nightly News, NBC seems to have multiple personality disorder. Call it The Three Faces Of Evening News.

Here's an idea for Mr. Capus: Before he thinks about adding a second half-hour to Nightly News, maybe he should concentrate on filling the existing half-hour broadcast with actual news. Instead of more ridiculous non-stories about luncheon meat, the board game Clue, kazoos, pink dolphins, dancing parrots, centenarians or twittering, Nightly News could report on stories like the conflict in Sri Lanka or the election in India. Then Capus could think about adding a second half-hour. Perhaps Nightly News could fill that second half-hour entirely with "Making A Difference" segments suggested by viewers. Somewhere out there, there's got to be a barber giving free haircuts or a diner owner providing free meals that Nightly News hasn't yet covered. Or maybe the second half-hour could be devoted entirely to covering Michelle Obama. That would certainly free up a lot of space from the first half-hour. And here's an idea: If NBC does expand Nightly News to a full hour, maybe they could use a different anchor for the second half-hour, like they do for the fourth hour of the Today Show. I hear that Kathie Lee is available.

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