CBS is leaving the news business

The signs have been adding up: CBSNews.com did major layoffs and an aggressive retreat from news online. CBS stations made news layoffs aplenty. And now CBS is said to be talking with CNN — again — about outsourcing news to CNN. One imagines a one-woman-thick news operation: Katie Couric reading intros to CNN reports. The pressure of being the Tiffany network is long over. I’ll bet they will finally have the guts to go out of the news business, apart from 60 Minutes. And if that happens, others will get the courage to do likewise. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Oh, we’ll hear wailing about public service and the public airwaves — that and a damned expensive contract is why they’ll keep Couric in a storefront operation. But what we have now is not public service. We don’t need three evening newscasts exactly alike except as a repository for erectile dysfunction commercials. So let one or two networks win the ratings. Let CBS put more resources into investigations on 60 Minutes. Let CNN cover breaking news — with more help from witnesses with cameras. I hope they let others take that news and curate it in different ways with different perspectives. There’ll be a new ecology of news on video and it’s about time.

  • http://www.pr-media-blogger.co.uk Mark Hanson

    We have similar issues over here in the UK. Our ITV network has to provide regional news as part of the terms of its analogue licence, yet as satellite, digital and online output prevail this kind of commitment is outdated.

    Let the BBC provide all the loss-making stuff and allow the micro-local online outlets provide innovation is my take on it but there will be a huge backlash.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society robertdfeinman

    Competition in the news business is as important as anywhere else. Look how easily the media was bamboozled in the run up to the wars. There were a few outlets that didn’t buy the story (such as “The Nation”), but they had limited (Ok, no) impact on the course of events.

    Now imagine the situation where there is only one outlet dealing with international news and it gets into bed with the administration. You end up with Pravda. A bit of “inefficiency” in the news business is worth it. The problem isn’t that that there are too many overlapping news outlets, but too few. If CBS, ABC and NBC had some real competition maybe they wouldn’t all look the same.

  • MurraySpinning

    Wonder if the politicos will allow this, given the evening “info”tainment 1/2 hr is the most free coverage their messages get.

  • http://thepulse.ca shawnpetriw

    @robertdfeinman

    re:Competition in the news business.

    Blogs, YouTube, Podcasts replace Newspapers, TV and Radio. There’s more competition now than ever before. The cream will rise to the top, and the news will be vetted by the community with diverse agendas and perspectives rather than a single all-powerful managing editor, publisher or executive.

    And the kids aren’t watching TV news or reading printed newspapers (and they never will), so our future is safe from monopolies in these old businesses anyway.

  • Maggie Mama

    With all due respect many would opine that CBS left the news business quite a while ago … it was just Mary Mapes and Dan Rather that brought the fact to our attention.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society robertdfeinman

    shawnpetriw:

    It is my contention that there isn’t much “news” being created online as of yet. I frequently point to Talking Points Memo as a counter example, but it is one of a very few.

    There is lots of retransmission of news gathered by the traditional media, but that’s just another avenue of dissemination. To “gather” news means to send reporters into the field, or to dig through documents, or to interview people who have vital information, but don’t get asked about it, or even to file suit. Most bloggers and others online need to make an living doing something else. The traditional media companies can (or could) afford to hire a staff and let them make a living doing news gathering.

    It is telling that Josh Marshall named his investigative subsidiary TPMMuckrakers. He was also thinking of the days of investigative reporting and has hired a staff to do the modern equivalent. This is traditional news gathering, only the delivery media has changed.

    Now cite some other examples. It’s all got to do with funding sources.

  • http://www.leebow.com Ken Leebow

    60 Minutes?

    That show is an old-age home for journalists who just won’t (I’ll be nice) go away. And, sadly, CBS is more than willing to be co-dependent.

    How about telling Andy Rooney to get an eye-brow haircut and letting Lewis Black fill in . . . forever.

    You know what would be really grand? If CNN and CBS merge, let Larry King become a part of 60 Minutes. He can do investigative celebrity pieces.

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  • Robert

    Mark Hanson writes: “Let the BBC provide all the loss-making stuff and allow the micro-local online outlets provide innovation”

    ITV had to provide local news as part of their franchise despite the fact that it was loss making. Why would anyone else provide local TV news if there is no money in it?

    Some things don’t make a profit. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile and should be scrapped. Why should there be only one supplier of loss-making local TV (the BBC)? Not a healthy situation.

  • Tex Lovera

    I think there’s a distinction to be made here. robert said:

    “Competition in the news business is as important as anywhere else. Look how easily the media was bamboozled in the run up to the wars. There were a few outlets that didn’t buy the story (such as “The Nation”), but they had limited (Ok, no) impact on the course of events”

    There’s a difference between gathering and reporting what happens/is said, and editorializing on that information. I see the big media’s role as being the primary gatherers of that information, but small outfits (local stations, bloggers, anyone with an interest in something) also helping gather information. Their job is no longer to “buy” the story or not, but to report it. No one trusts their “judgment” anymore, anyway.

    Then how will the big media then differentiate themselves from one another? I think in how accurate their information is, how timely it is, and how much it interests their potential viewers. Also, in how much “value” they can add to that information. Examples? Don’t just give me the address of a robbery, hyperlink it to google maps. Don’t just tell me how high the floodwaters got, link to the USGS stream gage. Don’t just summarize what was said in last night’s debate, tell me where your archived raw feed is.

    However, the editorializing on that gathered news – “buying” or not buying it – is now under my control, powered by a million different sources on the net. If I want to know what other reasonable people think (or unreasonable ones, for that matter), I’ve got a) my bookmarks and b) my curiosity and a mouse. I don’t have to rely on a bunch of old white guys who no longer know how to run a newspaper.

    But the days of the big 3, or even their more recent cable offspring, being the high priests of news filtering are long gone, and will never come back. Adapt or perish, guys.