by Jeff Jarvis
The new CBS News
: Even before CBS News is redone it is redoing itself. In a comment on the post below, Andrew Tyndall of the Tyndall Report says he studied the show for Broadcasting & Cable and sees big change already:
Less than three weeks after Dan Rather’s departure from the anchor chair, Schieffer has already markedly revamped the job description, showcasing a more inquisitive, interactive style than his predecessor or his competitors….
This anchor approaches his role more as a viewer’s representative than as a reporter’s leader [yes! – ed]; Schieffer’s emphasis is more on summing up a story than on introducing it.
Specifically, Schieffer’s CBS Evening News actually makes constructive use of the live sign-off that often ends a correspondent’s taped report. In the TV news business, the live sign-off tends to be just an ornamental transition, but Schieffer makes it a valuable access point, posing follow-up questions to reporters on a couple of stories each night. He reminds the reporter that, like the viewers at home, he has just watched the preceding package himself. He drives home the story’s lead. He cites the angle that interested him most. He uses vernacular, even blunt language, to ask for more…
The before-and-after is striking. Schieffer’s live interactive style was used in 40% of CBS’ items (ABC used it 9% of the time, NBC 3%); in Rather’s final days, CBS used those techniques only 11% of the time (ABC 17%, NBC 3%)….
The questions that Schieffer asks out loud are the same routine ones every anchor and executive producer asks of correspondents before a story is filed. What CBS Evening News is doing is showing that Q&A in action, rather than simply weaving its results into the on-air report.
So Schieffer makes more of the anchor’s behind-the-scenes job visible for all to see. How modish is that? At age 68, our oldest rookie news anchor is not only interactive, but transparent, too.
I’ve been of the view that CBS News can change with Schieffer in the anchor chair.
It’s not about what’s before the camera but what’s behind the camera — changing it and showing it.
It’s not about new faces but new voices.
It’s not about format but attitude. And it sounds as if the attitude is changing.
: The Wall Street Journal writes up Jimmy Wales’ Wikicities business (another free link). It’s just starting so it’s hard to tell whether this will work as well as Wikipedia. I think that wikis work best when they try to gather the ongoing wisdom of the crowds on lasting topics; they work when they hit a critical mass of interest, people, contributions, and time. That’s why I remain dubious that Wikinews will work; it’s too transient: By the time enough people swarm around a topic to add their collective wisdom, the world has moved on. Wikipedia did, in fact, do a good job collecting news during the tsunami, but that had enough interest, people, and time to make it work. WikiCities is a third model: A portal where people can create free, ad-supported special-interest wikis. On the one hand, I wonder whether people won’t just do that on their own sites, in their own communities. On the other hand, perhaps special-interest wikis need a portal to gather that critical mass of contributors. We’ll see…
: The Wall Street Journal reports (free link) that TV programmers are trying to exploit this God thing said to be sweeping the nation:
Judging from several comedy and drama pilots now in progress that are already getting close consideration, America’s couches will be turning into pews.
A splashy drama called “Book of Daniel” is in development at NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., while Viacom Inc.’s CBS is building a supernatural thriller around a character described as “a brilliant physicist with strong religious beliefs.” News Corp.’s Fox, meanwhile, has “Briar + Graves,” which the producers describe as “The X-Files” goes to church….
“We try in the entertainment business to find veins of interest to tap, and religion is a huge one that is currently very underserved,” says Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment at NBC, which is set to begin airing “Revelations,” a six-part apocalyptic miniseries, next month.
Also weighing heavily on programming executives’ minds is President Bush’s re-election. In addition to giving religion a starring role, several shows this development season are set deep inside “red” states and feature ultraconservative characters in the mix. In fact, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC is looking at “Red & Blue,” about a conservative grandfather.
An essential rule of entertainment: If a show (or magazine or any media effort) starts with a creative vision that clicks, it will succeed. If it starts merely trying to pander to a demographic or a trend in polls, it’s likely to fail. But network programmers never learn that.
Having that said, a religous reality show would be a hoot. Churches are filled with drama, politics, what the American TV audience loves best: humiliation. I can’t wait for ConfessionalCam.
: See also my post yesterday: Jumping the shark for Jesus