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An Open Letter to Brian Williams

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Dear Brian Williams,

I love the news. In the form of newspapers, television, radio or the Internet, it is the first thing I see or hear in the morning and the last thing at night. I grew up with Walter Cronkite in his calm, grandfatherly tone -- nothing sensational, but our family watched to see what had happened that day, so we would know what we might expect down the road. I am 59-years-old, and my wife and I still watch the Nightly News religiously.

Now my gripe. There is far too little news on the news. There are stories today that are just as important, or even more important, than the events chronicled by Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Yet night after night I sit and watch, frustrated, confused and sometimes angry, seeing stories that chronicle events that -- while visually engaging and important to a small group of people -- have no lasting impact on the nation you are reporting to.

Snow storms in the Midwest, tornadoes in tornado alley and tropical storms forming over the West African coast are the norm. They are not national news, though they provide sensational photo-ops. In a recent six-day period, snow in the Midwest and Northeast led the Nightly News for five nights and was the second story on the other.

If weather stories were covered with a more refined angle -- for instance, examining how global warming has impacted the weather, and it has -- that would be news.

Focusing on the substantive impact of affordable health care in the United States would be informative. The government's poor planning and embarrassing fumbles should be reported, but the historic goals and possible impact are newsworthy and should be explored and reported too.

Another topic worthy of in-depth coverage is the story of how 30 to 40 (mostly) angry, white men can prevent the government from functioning. Likewise, gerrymandered districts engineered by disgruntled state legislators and the Supreme Court's endorsement of permitting a few wealthy men to purchase elections in the name of "corporate free speech," are critically important. However, hardly a minute of coverage is devoted to explaining how un-democratic our "democracy" has become.

In failing to cover these stories, the Nightly News is not serving its audience, or more important, the tradition of journalism millions love and deserve.

I know about demographics, we laugh at the commercials directed at our impotency, arthritis, incontinence, etc. Clearly the 50- to 75-year-old viewer is not who the network chiefs want to attract. But do you and the execs really think that young people with purchasing power want to watch repetitive non-news stories?

There is a place on broadcast television for concise, insightful, informative and engaging stories. Commercial TV can educate and entertain in an honest manner. Both the network and its viewers would benefit from news that focused on truly important stories. Come on, Brian. You and your competent reporters can do better.

Eddie Cohn