God is dead. Film at 11.

God is dead. Film at 11.

: Well, CBS Chair Les Moonves gets one message about the future of news and keeps repeating it like a media mantra:

Moonves, who will ultimately select Rather’s replacement, said he believes many young viewers are turned off by a single “voice of God” anchor in the Internet age….

“Those days are over when you have that guy sitting behind the desk who everyone believes to the `nth’ degree,” Moonves told reporters. “It’s sort of an antiquated way of news telling and maybe there’s a new way of doing it.” …

“We have to try and reinvent that,” he said. “One of the ways we’re looking at is making it younger and more relevant, something that younger people can relate to as opposed to that guy preaching from the mountaintop about what we should and should not watch.”

Got that? No god-from-the-mountaintop thing. Strike the Mt. Sinai set, boys. Throw out the tablets.

But I joke. It is the right message. Moonves is also talking about a multi-city, multi-anchor approach. Been there, seen that. Seen that fail. And there’s this:

Asked twice, Moonves wouldn’t rule out a role on the evening news for Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, whose “The Daily Show” skewers politicians and the news media each night. Moonves is co-chief executive of Viacom, which owns both CBS and Comedy Central.

Well, that’s fun, too. It won’t happen, but it’s fun to imagine.

The problem with all this is that Moonves talks about change and about what the news shouldn’t be. But he doesn’t yet talk about what the news should be. It’s not about pandering to a young demographic. It’s about respecting the public. It’s about having a conversation. It’s not about the style. It’s the substance, Les.

  • I know, we’ll get a psychic and build this set with all zodiac things and all, and then ‘A Minute with Penn and Teller’, and that cooking guy with the ‘bang’ and then . . .
    Get up. I want you all to get up and go to your windows . . .

  • sbw

    Moonves: One of the ways we’re looking at is making it younger…
    Keeriist! How “TV NETWORK” a reply. Don’t make it younger. Make it sensible. Make it work constantly to be useful and more solid. Work to weave together different perspectives into a map of reality that is more whole than the parts. Cut the he said/she said crap and synthesize. Work at a piece and then don’t be afraid to rework it the next show when you learn more.
    When I listen to someone I disagree with, my interest is in learning what truths they bring to the table to weave into my own thoughts. Your job is to create a news show that will help bring us together not with cheap relativism, but with honest-to-goodness, hard-work synthesis.
    Anything less is a cop-out. Anything less isn’t Murrow. Anything less is yesterday.

  • kat

    CBS news is already a joke, why do they need a comedian to deliver it?
    Why don’t they just hire Michael Moore or that Zuningas guy–be really transparent about the leftist bias and not try to fool us. How stupid do they think people are? Do they think younger leftists will make it more palatable or what? It doesn’t matter how leftist bias is presented or who does the presenting–in the end it’s no different than what Mapes and Rather did. Or maybe they are looking to brainwash a new generation in Ratherism, and in that case, Stewart will do fine.

  • Isn’t a multi-city approach what ABC did before Jennings, with Frank Reynolds as the lead anchor? The more things change . . .
    I stand by my suggestion that Moonves could do worse than to bring over Erica Hill from CNN, esp. if he’s looking for a multiple-anchor squad and to find someone who can speak to younger viewers.

  • Sounds to me like Moonves has FoxNews in mind.
    FoxNews anchors as a matter of course turn to guests or panels to discuss issues in depth, as opposed to merely presenting one single official news spin. Britt Hume’s daily news, for instance, goes to a panel session at the end of each broadcast. Other anchors will turn to relevant guests… usually one pro and one con… and so FoxNews viewers are actually more likely to hear the fringe left view than network viewers.
    FoxNews detractors miss this important distinction. Other news channels have panel shows, but they are separate from the standard news shows, and usually tilt overwhelmingly liberal, anyway, which means there’s not that much diff between the panel spin and the anchor spin.
    A FoxNews style panel in the last segment of the evening news would be an enlightened move for CBS, especially if they avoided the old network dodge of stacking panels with mostly liberals and one zany right winger.

  • Actually, most of the political food fights have lots of zany right wingers and perhaps one wimp who plays a liberal on tv (except for the new WSJ editorial board show on PBS which is simplay zany right wingers and really really bad television).
    But a panel at the end won’t happen particularly after CNN finally killed crossfire.
    What they should do is have Stewart do a weekly segment similar to what he does on the emmys. It clearly won’t be news, but it will zing many (including your beloved fox) and be funny which (aside from Robert Krulwich on ABC) almost never happens on the evening news.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    Our local CBS affiliate tried a “NEWS OUT OF THE BOX!” format a few years ago. The local anchors delivered the news while blankly walking around the studio (NO CHAIRS! NO DESKS! It’s wacky!!).
    It failed. Badly. I’m talking Hindenburg bad. Edsel bad. Spruce Goose bad. Titanic…Ok you get the picture.
    Let’s break the news into blocks with different anchors.
    We can have segments for “Serious” News, Hollywood gossip, Sports, (complete with bloopers!) and a psychic who can make predictions and also double as the weather forcaster.
    CBS and all the network newscasts are living on borrowed time.
    Oh well. I’m not shedding any tears.

  • daudder

    news shouldn’t be a “conversation”; that’s why thew “news business” is in such a mess. the news should be treated more as ‘the facts’; the conversation happens afterwards.
    the idea of different newscasters, from different location is not a bad idea, and could be a great one if executed properly (how about not treating locations as stereotypes but locations a perspectives).
    at least it breaks things up…

  • Steve Rhodes: On Fox? Name the players.
    Sounds like you’re referring to Hannity & Colmes (the “one wimp”), but that show is almost always two for two crossfire, not what you’re describing. What you’re describing sounds more like the fictitious “FauxNews” that exists only in the minds of typical FoxNews-haters, people who would rather their political opponents not be afforded air time or equal treatment at all… the very kind of free speech that liberals are claiming to champion when they champion TV boobie.
    And why is the demise of Crossfire surprising, after it was weighted towards liberals with non-journalist activists Begala and Carville? Donahue attempted a show on MSNBC that went down in flames for the same reason… panels stacked with liberals, one token conservative, done so blatantly that one of the token conservatives made an issue of it on air, pointing out that he had never in his life been on such a lop-sided, biased panel. He was literally the only member of a five or six person panel who wasn’t just parroting Donahue’s line.
    Meanwhile, Fox is doing quite well with shows featuring panels, quality of liberal participants notwithstanding. So is Meet the Press, which, while not perfect, is much more fair to all views than some of Russert’s competition.
    So, what have we learned? Lop-sided and biased forums that shut out contradiction and debate: failure; open forums that allow all voices: successful.
    However, rereading some of this stuff tonight, I’m reminded that Moonves is more likely referring to that dreadful multi-anchor idea, which I think in the true spirit of bipartisanship we can all agree sucks.

  • Screamin’ Demon

    a multi-city, multi-anchor approach. Been there, seen that. Seen that fail
    Huntley. Brinkley.
    New York. Washington.
    Fourteen years. More recognized than the Beatles by adults.
    A colossal failure, that.

  • Screamin’ Demon

    Carsonfire, I couldn’t get past your first full paragraph without laughing my ass off.

  • athospaco

    I smell Moonves setting up Julie Chen to be part of his new vision.

  • Maureen

    All I want from the news is…this new, unheard of innovation called…news. Even CNN doesn’t really tell us “things that happened” anymore. There’s a whole world of stuff going on out there, and I for one would like to be able to turn on the boob tube to find it out, instead of having to click on it.
    I would also like some reasonable interpretation and analysis of what’s going on, preferably from people who know and openly admit their own biases, but who are more concerned with figuring out what’s going on than making political points or looking pretty for the camera. It would also be nice if they had some respect and liking for each other, but were as fond of a good argument as a good discussion.
    Why is this so much to ask? It ought to be the minimal condition for calling something a newscast.

  • Angelos

    Yeah carson,
    -discuss “in depth”?
    -no spin?
    Are you freaking kiding me?

  • Angus Jung

    “Carsonfire, I couldn’t get past your first full paragraph without laughing my ass off.”
    What brand of airplane glue is it?

  • Mark

    Why not copy the local affiliates’ format of a news-babe reading the news? After all, as Jeff points out, we who really care about the news just look to the networks as they look to the AP. So give me someone nice to look at and start reading!

  • How about “CBS Evening News” wiht Red Anchor / Blue Anchor
    For example —
    Blue Anchor: Another dismal day in Iraq with killings and bombings on the road to total civil war. President Bush says,