THE BLOG
06/21/2007 01:40 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rather Awful News: An Open Letter to Dan

Dear Dan,

It's been many years since we ran into each other. It probably was in Paris, where I worked for eight years at the CBS News bureau -- first a lowly stringer following Ed Bradley, then a full correspondent.

It was about the time of Walter's retirement: you were taking over that hallowed Cronkite desk. I have to admit I was skeptical -- who in the news business could fill Walter's shoes? You did pretty well. You always seemed a bit too stiff and formal on camera; your on-scene war reporting was a bad idea, badly staged by your producers; and the final blunder that lost you your job was unfortunate.

But here you are, back in the news again -- not reporting it but making it. What you said about CBS "tarting up" the evening news was exactly right. It wasn't sexist -- it was true. Whether it's an anchorman or an anchorwoman presenting it, American television news has slipped to deplorable depths. Calling it "infortainment" is too kind.

I'm still living and working in Paris, Dan, so let me tell you about the nightly news here.

It goes on at eight o'clock, giving families a chance to have a decent sit-down dinner. The kids finish up their homework while the grown-ups watch the news, which is presented for 30 to 35 minutes straight, with no interruptions for commercials. I'm not kidding! There are indeed commercials after that for about 10 minutes, and then the national weather report. Road reports, too, if it's a holiday weekend. A few more commercials and promos, and at nine o'clock the evening programs begin, when the youngsters are ready for bed.

The anchors are long-time, well-seasoned professionals who are not traded in against young upstarts. And they do not have million-dollar contracts.

Needless to say, there is much more world news on European television than there is on American TV. During my years at CBS Paris, the story had to be enormous to get aired back home: the Amoco-Cadiz disaster, for example; the Socialist election victory in 1981. Today, I know, it's even harder to get foreign news on the air. Who cares about the European community when there's a human interest story in Kalamazoo? Even the war in Iraq has outlived its newsiness: It comes on almost as a sidebar.

So you see, Dan, I'm on your side. Keep on criticizing, keep on kvetching. Somebody has to say the emperor has no clothes. Or rather, he's wearing Max Factor make-up, has a blow-dry coif, and is slipping into his Armani suit and Hermes cravate.