A world without Katies?

BBC Director General says that the era of the anchor “has virtually died out.”. From a Guardian report:

“The simple thing I can point to is that BBC news has changed somewhat over the years and the traditional role of a newsreader as opposed to a correspondent or news presenter has virtually died out across BBC services,” he said. “We tend to use journalists across all our programmes and on News 24 to read the news headlines.”

Now, of course, the British have always had a different attitude toward anchors. They’re merely newsreaders there, not the stars that they are here. But still, this is a major shift.

What would news organizations here do without the star power of the anchor? Perhaps they could make the quality of their reporting the star.

  • Heh. When I saw the headline in my RSS reader, I thought you were actually talking about the impending death of regional journalism awards in Texas. (The’re called the Katies.)


    In a way, maybe you are…

  • I think you have this completely wrong. BBC news used to be read by actors/professional presenters who were not journalists. The move over the years has been towards newsreaders who are also journalists. That is the situation now.

    Moira Stuart was the last news presenter who was not a journalist as far as I know.

    So when you say they are ‘merely’ newsreaders. What do you mean? Many of the news presenters here are instantly recognisable to millions of Britons– Jon Snow, Trevor McDonald, Jeremy Paxman — they are professional journalists and they are presenters too. What makes a ‘star’?

  • BBC anchors are real journalists; often the American ones are just puffed-up actors.

    Jeremy Paxman, many of the Today interviewers, and many, many other BBC announcers, reporters, and anchors do great work (thank goodness for the Internet — which allows me to watch and listen to their work). One thing is they offer hard, tough interviews, not just a mouthpiece for interviewees. Even to big politicians like Tony Blair and John Negroponte the interviewers try to get past the political rhetoric and BS-ing.

  • Just don’t tell half the freshmen at j-schools who are there to be the next (fill in big TV star).

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  • I think the BBC is right but with every end becomes a new beggining.

  • morris james

    Imagine what 15-million dollars more a year could mean to a network’s news coverage!

  • Gary and clearthought are right. For many years, the news in the UK was read by announcers – not journalists. Now, BBC news presenters (are we must now call them) are required to stand up, sit down, say things like “let’s go live to Nick Robinson in Downing Street” and all sorts of things that a mere non-journalist couldn’t possibly do…. couldn’t they?

  • $15 million to work 22 minutes a night reading what someone else has written? Sign me up! I’ll do it for half!

  • “What would news organizations here do without the star power of the anchor? Perhaps they could make the quality of their reporting the star.”

    Wasn’t CBS doing that with Bob Schieffer?

  • Most people go to specific anchors for a ‘style’ of news delivery and interviewing. That was the case with Cronkite and the generation that followed him. For my own part, I typically gravitated to Peter Jennings because he cared enough to ask the detailed questions that made people uncomfortable – and made them think on their feet (or display the fact that they weren’t really capable of doing it very well.)

    You can take the star power out of the news, but it’s going to be very difficult to lose a model like that when it’s the same one currently driving American Politics. Star power is virtually engraved into our culture, at this point…nobody gets elected unless they look and sound better than the next guy, or gal, in most cases. One can almost see a political edition of IDOL on the horizon – though perhaps it would be smarter to combine the format with that of SURVIVOR…and add a dash of FEAR FACTOR, just to keep it really interesting…

    Don’t hold you’re breath, anybody: Katie’s not going anywhere, yet…

  • Oh poppycock… Peter Jennings had the charisma and the style and the charm and even the smarts to bring me to the tube all the time. He was a storyteller though; best in threading a breaking news situation, 9/11 for instance, seamlessly together for the viewer, transitioning like a master craftsman from one report(er) to another, smooth as glass, with (and here’s the clincher) the HISTORICAL relevance and importance and knowledge base any breaking news situation almost always needs.

    I wish there were more, not less, with his sheer natural abilities to, well, weave things together so masterfully. I could care less what platform they’re doing it from. Do it on ustream.tv, for chrissake. There’s always room for genuine star power in any platform. Always. Mere mortals simply crave ’em. And Lord knows, any VJ and a DV cam (sorry Michael!) just doesn’t satisfy that kinda craving.

    Not that they don’t serve a great need; a news feed is food on the run in your car with the kids howling in the back seat in 7 lanes of traffic hell. A truly gifted, talented anchor is a special night out. With candles and flowers and all that stuff. Expensive, eh!?

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  • Chris Newman

    The reason why we are losing the big time anchors is because our current generation doesn’t have that Walter Cronkite or Dan Rather. I don’t think Katie Couric is considered to be in the class or Cronkite or Rather. She doesn’t seem to me that she represents a generation like Cronkite and Rather did. So it doesn’t surprise me that America may switch to the BBC style news readers. As long as the news is being presented in a reasonable way, I don’t think American’s care who and how there news is delivered.

  • Just as written journalism is heading in the direction of more personalized news stories, long(er) format articles and blogging, TV journalism should take a page from Charlie Rose. Genuine, in-depth conversational news.

    Media is ultimately becoming more human against the grain of digitization. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Ken from Chicago

    News is MARKETED on personality. It’s ABC World News WITH Charles Gibson, NBC Nightly News WITH Brian Williams, and CBS Evening News WITH Katie Couric. Yet it’s practically the same news cast if you flip from channel to channel. Start with the top headline stories. The middle tend to be regular features, business, entertainment, science / health / tech stories. And it ends with human interest / “odd” news / animal stories.

    Local news is more of the same, only you add regular features: Weather, Traffic & Sports.

    The thing is the AUDIENCE for the old way is dying off (tho judging by all the pharmaceutical ads, they are doing so with calm legs, spiffy new blood meters and “fully functional” … “down there”).

    That’s blunted by the blurring of news and entertainment which also tends to focus on celebrities / personalities. Rocketboom had Amanda Congdon. The Wonkette had Anna Marie Cox. CNet’s Buzz Report had Molly Wood (tho she’s scheduled to turn from maternity leave in June). CNet’s Buzz Out Loud has Tom Merritt, Veronica Belmont and Molly Wood (when she returns). This Week in Tech has Leo Laporte. Digg Nation has Kevin Rose. Digital Life TV has Patrick Norton. Yadda, yadda, yadda. They don’t just read the news headlines, they also editorialize, rant, joke, etc.

    Much like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert. Both adopt the ancient stand-up comic routine of “set-up” and “retort”. They start with the routine announcement and then give a funny reaction to said announcement.

    — Ken from Chicago

    P.S. Like talk radio, announce / respond, announce / respond, rinse, lather, repeat.

  • The system in America is different to Britain.

    The reason we can no longer have newreaders who are not journalists is because sometimes they need to switch from reading something that someone else has written, to being a journalist in their own right. It’s not like the old days where the script for a fixed 30 minute show was usually set in stone before the show started.

    Breaking news comes in and they must be able to know the questions to ask and which issues are important. Sure, sometimes they can be fed questions down an ear-piece from the production gallery, but not always.

    Moira Stuart is a charismatic and much-loved BBC news reader. Part of the outcry is because she is one of the few black women on British TV and one of very few older women. The BBC has a long and shameful history of putting incredibly talented older women presenters on the scrap-heap: Angela Rippon, Anne Gregg, Valerie Singleton to name just a few…

  • You will notice that it is not called “The New York Times With Frank Rich”. The New York Times seems to do pretty well as a journalistic enterprise without the ‘star power’. For too long (like since it started) television news has confused itself with Hollywood. Producers, Directors, Talent. Hollywood make great movies but does pretty crap at journalism. So too with TV news.

  • Patricia

    How refreshing. No more voice from above. Producers and correspondents and editors do the majority of the work in network and cable news and deserve more of the credit and/or discredit for the work they do.

  • Quality, schmality…i’m gonna miss Katie one day. -NewsMax

  • Jeremy Paxman is a real journalist.