BY BOB JONES – When I started at NBC News in New York in 1968, the then vice-president for network news told me that time was coming when there would be no more news “anchors” or 6 p.m. newscasts, just live news streaming in all day from correspondents around the globe.
Live news came (CNN, Fox, etc) but those anchor stars remained. They cost big bucks but there seems to be a business sense that they, not just the news, are the draw for the television audiences. Some solo like Wolf Blitzer. Some have Barbie and Ken chatting about fun things that happened to them over the weekend. Or me, Tim Tindall, Linda Coble and Joe Moore cutting up at the end of a newscast years ago.
Tribune Broadcasting is gearing up for the rollout of a radical, anchor-free overhaul of its local newscasts in Houston in October. The prototype, produced with nationally and New York-oriented stories, plays as if the viewer were surfing the Internet, with voice-over narration of a rapid-fire series of pre-taped stories, vidclips and images. In addition to jettisoning the anchor desk, there are no traditional reports from on-air correspondents, though Tribune execs said the format was flexible to allow for live news coverage.
I’ve long maintained that the popular anchor format is an anachronism, although you do need a kind of lead reporter working from the newsroom to hold things together when the unexpected happens.
Paying those huge bucks to a couple of folks (well, more than a couple!) to sit at a desk and read leads into reporter stories while underpaying field reporters doesn’t make much sense.
Bob Jones is a MidWeek columnist. Reach him at mailto: BanyanHouse@hula.net