< New Variety on Network Evening News

Transcript

Friday, October 28, 2011

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Andrew Tyndall runs The Tyndall Report, which monitors the nightly newscasts ABC, NBC and CBS. He agrees with Potter that their audiences may be attracted to the new variety in their newscasts.

 

ANDREW TYNDALL:

You can no longer tune into any one of the three broadcasts and get the same news. You’re actually getting a different take on the news from one network to the other. I haven't seen this much variation for 15 years.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Okay, so let's talk about Diane Sawyer’s nightly newscasts first, What sets them apart?

ANDREW TYNDALL:

The traditional role of the, of the half-hour nightly newscast was to give a summary of the major events of the previous 24 hours. ABC has now stepped away from that role. So what you have is ABC with Diane Sawyer as its anchor copying a lot of the techniques that she learned when she was on the morning shows. So what you've got is you’ve got an evening version of Good Morning America.

[CLIP]:

DIANE SAWYER:

This is World News Tonight. Daily dose. Could some of the vitamin supplements we take increase the risk of death from disease?

A small secret of happiness. Sometimes it turns out you don't need to spend money or go on vacation to achieve it. And here's....

 

It was a day of emotion and drama in the trial of the doctor charged in Michael Jackson's death. One by one...

ANDREW TYNDALL:

World – “World” is in the ABC title, ABC World News. It’s about the only place you see coverage of the world is in the title.

[BROOKE LAUGHS]

And they certainly prefer to cover things like, you know, the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor verses the plight of Muammar Qaddafi.

 

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Most of the Sawyer coverage seems to fall into the news-you-can-use-directly category, as in health, diet, family, personal stories. What about the economy?

ANDREW TYNDALL:

Even their coverage of the economy uses this news-you-can-use motif. So, for instance, they have a huge feature called “Made in America.” And the point of that is to get you to change your behavior as a consumer to buy more goods that are made in America. And that's the method by which the unemployment crisis will be solved.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

And pivoting to CBS, we went from Katie Couric to Scott Pelley, and that meant a world of  difference?

ANDREW TYNDALL:

It's interesting. When Katie Couric was there, a lot of the fingers were pointed at her because her newscast was too soft, a suspicion that it was too soft because she came from the morning programs. Scott Pelley is not doing more news, replacing Katie Couric, in other words, news, things that happened in the last 24 hours. But he’s certainly doing more serious content. And that’s the reason why I see the imprint of 60 Minutes in his newscast.

[CLIPS]:

SCOTT PELLEY:

Tonight, a lifeline for homeowners, the President announces new rules to make it easier to refinance.

SCOTT PELLEY:

At a summit meeting late today European leaders announced they had agreed on a plan to shore up banks.

SCOTT PELLEY:

All around the country - listen to this - there are 4.6 unemployed workers competing for every job that's available.

ANDREW TYNDALL:

The big increase that we've seen in the last four months since Pelley took over is in the serious coverage of the economy. And now, the economy is not actually a newsy topic, It's not one where there are a lot of developing stories.

 

But there are major overarching trends - the housing crisis, the jobs crisis and the increase in poverty and homelessness. They’re all trends that, that Pelley has put an emphasis on, compared to what went before him, and compared to the other two newscasts, as well.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

The other two newscasts. So let's talk about NBC. It's been number one for a while. Does that mean it steers a middle course, or is it altogether different in its tone and story choices?

ANDREW TYNDALL:

It's made the fewest changes over the last years, but because of the changes that the other two have made, it now stands alone as being a differentiated product in itself. What's happened is that it’s now the most old- fashioned and conventional in adopting the role of delivering the breaking news stories of the last 24 hours.

[CLIPS]:

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

On the broadcast tonight, Qaddafi is dead. The dictator who ruled for 42 years is gone, and a new era now begins for Libya.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

Coming to America, a massive island of trash and debris from the earthquake in Japan drifting across the Pacific.

BRIAN WILLIAMS:

Now we have to turn overseas to the unfolding disaster in eastern Turkey after a powerful 7.2 earthquake.

ANDREW TYNDALL:

Its news emphasis is highly concentrated on natural disasters and weather. Now, NBC News owns The Weather Channel. So this is one way in which they maintain their claim on breaking sudden immediate news, is by emphasizing the importance of meteorology, and also  earthquakes and, and bad stuff like that.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

So fewer long form investigative pieces then CBS.

ANDREW TYNDALL:

And fewer human interest pieces then ABC.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

More in the style of And That’s the Way it Is?

ANDREW TYNDALL:

To me this is an antiquated way of doing a newscast. Since we were last on air, these are the things happened. That comes from newspapers. It’s – it’s 150-year-old idea.

 

There are very few natural events that actually happen in the real world that conform to a 24-hour cycle. The reason why that cycle was considered to be important was because of the convenience of the printing press, not because it was an accurate way of representing the world.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

It bears repeating that television is still most people's number one source of news and  information, and that the combined network viewership completely swamps any kind of viewership on cable.

 

ANDREW TYNDALL:

The reason why throughout the last 40 years television has been the dominant medium for people to get their news is because people would sit down and watch anything on television, including news. There’s a lot of news that isn't very good to do on television. There’s lots of news that would be we better to d – be done interactively or even, you know, on the radio, for instance.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

God, heaven forfend!

ANDREW TYNDALL:

But there is some types of news that are really good on video. There's no reason to suppose that the broadcast networks aren't going to continue to be a leader in covering that type of news.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

So obviously, there are some stories that are so big that they still lead all three networks, right?

ANDREW TYNDALL:

Obviously. Just take last week. The huge story of Qaddafi getting killed led all three networks. The big story of President Obama taking all the troops out of Iraq led all three network newscasts the same night.

The trivial story of the tigers getting loose in Ohio led all three networks. [LAUGHS]

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

[LAUGHING] Well, I'm glad our priorities are still clear.

ANDREW TYNDALL:

Qaddafi, Iraq, tigers.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Andrew, thank you very much.

ANDREW TYNDALL:

Thank you, Brooke.

 

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Andrew Tyndall monitors nightly network newscasts for The Tyndall Report.

[HUNTLEY BRINKLEY REPORT THEME/UP & UNDER]

AND UNDER]

And now, for your listening pleasure, the theme from NBC’s Huntley Brinkley Report which your parents used to watch.

BOB GARFIELD:

That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Jamie York, Alex Goldman, PJ Vogt, Sarah Abdurrahman and Chris Neary, with more help from Gianna Palmer and Doug Anderson, and edited – by Brooke. Our technical director is Jennifer Munson. Our engineer this week was Dylan Keefe.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Katya Rogers is our senior producer.

Ellen Horne is WNYC’s senior director of National Programs. Bassist composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. On the Media is produced by WNYC and distributed by NPR. I’m Brooke Gladstone.

          BOB GARFIELD:

And I’m Bob Garfield.

[FUNDING CREDITS]

*** [END] ***