It's one of the oldest moves in television news: hire a babe. Melissa Rycroft, ex star of The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars on ABC is now a 'summer contributor' covering "fun" stories for Good Morning America. You suppose that's what David Westin means by the "new normal"? (BTW -- is that anything like GE's "green initiative" that ends up on NBC News every year?) Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing the matter with hiring attractive folks to work on news broadcasts. In fact, it has been happening for decades now.
Hmmmm. And where has that gotten us? We are decades into following the same basic television news formula and it's time for a change. Time for some new ideas. Local news in particular, with a few exceptions, is on the precipice of irrelevancy. And it is slowly being pushed over the edge by the very people who should be trying to pull it back from brink. The people working in it. But there's a simple problem. The only answer they know is: hire a babe. If not literally, then figuratively. Change the set. Get more graphics. Get less graphics. Pick up the pace. Slow down the pace. Stack it tight. Stack it lite. More promos. More teases. Less chit chat. More chit chat. Did I mention changing the set?
Maybe we should hire a babe. They're tried it everywhere else, from the business channel to PBS.
It has been interesting lately to watch the "inside the beltway" moves taking place at a number of local stations, the movement of General Managers and News Directors in particular. To borrow a phrase, it's been a lot like watching them move the chairs around on the deck of the Titanic. The "logical and safe" choices have been made in every case. 14 and 18 years of "news management experience" in a couple of instances. Now I'm sure these fine folks deserved the promotions and they'll come to their new jobs with all the verve and ideas they can muster. But will they bring anything new? And I mean more than trying to use Twitter in their newscasts. Goodness, that's old already. (So is NBCU's deal with Hallmark Cards. Gee that'll save the network Jeff.)
Will they understand that over 90 per cent of the local news audience that was there 14 and 18 years ago when they started is gone -- poof! Gone. Will they understand that they're competing with the other stations in their markets for the 7 or 8 per cent that's left? Will they understand that unless they figure out a way to become relevant to that missing 90 some odd per cent that the new set they're building will be seen by fewer people than watch a Broadway play -- in person! Will they go looking for "game changers"? People with different ideas who don't come from the usual places? Who don't have 18 years of "news management experience", but who have ideas! Will they have the fortitude to try them?
Be sure and let me know how it works out will ya? I'll be watching the new babe on GMA.
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