Wednesday, February 15, 2006

NETWORK TV NEWS: STILL A MESS

Okay, it is now February and here is the situation with the TV news networks in the United States:

Over at NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams is still the anchor over there. But CBS is still helmed by the interim-anchor Bob Schieffer, who ought to change his title to Substitute-in-Chief because he's anchored a lot longer than expected. And over at ABC it is total chaos with Elizabeth Vargas and a revolving door of substitutes. And here's the good part: Vargas is going to be off the air herself pretty soon.

Yes, it turns out Elizabeth Vargas is preggers and is going to eventually have to go on maternity leave. Given what has gone on with that newscast, with anchors dying or getting blown up, this is a rare piece of good news... I guess.

Anyway, sounds as if Vargas is in shock. She should be in shock--- she's having kids and she's 43 years old! So much for the biological clock. Anyway, the era of permanent substitute anchors continues over there at World News Tonight Without Peter Jennings. What else can you call that show these days. What a sad situation. That broadcast seems like it's cursed.

It's not just the nightly newscasts that are a mess, it's the Today Show not knowing if Katie Couric is sticking around, it's Nightline and the changes over there, it's all these things. Here's an article from the NY Observer about the situation at ABC News. Basically there's big exodus from that place to NPR and to Al-Jazeera International! Dave Marash, ex-Nightline correspondent, is going to Al-Jazeera, and they're poaching the ex-Nightline staffers by promising plenty of freedom to do long-form documentaries and other stuff that is no longer welcome at the new ABC News. So maybe Al-Jazeera International will turn out to be okay after all. Should be a welcome change from their usual coverage of terror videos and people rioting over Danish cartoons and the like.

NPR is also on a hiring spree. That article talks about how NPR is poaching ex-Nightline staffers, including Ted Koppel! If I were at ABC News I'd quit and go to NPR. Like I say, radio has its attractions these days. I have a lot of respect for NPR and that's another place where the reporters get a lot more freedom to report good stories. You're more likely to cover political or international stuff if you go over there. If you stay at ABC you're more likely to cover--- Jennifer Aniston! I mean really, can you imagine any of the current crop of people over at ABC News holding fort over the political conventions?! Martin Bashir?!

But you know for darned sure that the folks over at NPR will cover them.

WAITING FOR KATIE

The NY Observer article also mentions the changes at the Today Show and that Alexis Glick was ashcanned from that show, and that they're going to bring Natalie Morales in from MSNBC, so that affects the whole Katie Couric succession crisis over there at that soap opera of a show. I find it hard to keep a straight face reading about the stuff that goes on with the Today Show, it seems like the office politics runs rampant over there. The rampant speculation now is that Katie is as good as gone from the place. The tabloids reported that NBC had offered her an unbelieveable amount of money to stay, millions upon millions of dollars. You would think she would have signed on the dotted line quickly to a deal like that, but she hasn't said a darned thing. Which is a sure sign that she's thinking of leaving.

Also, NBC began its Winter Olympic coverage and they sent Brian Williams to anchor the opening ceremonies, with Katie nowhere to be found. So the speculation is that NBC is sending the world, and her, a message with this move. But we don't know what is going to happen yet.

CBS has sent a message of its own, too, with the news of John Roberts' departure to CNN and the promotions of Jim Axelrod, Byron Pitts, Sharyl Attkisson and the rest of them. They are clearly getting ready to make a decision on an anchor and getting everyone in place. Roberts, in particular, wouldn't walk out of CBS News without knowing for darned sure his fate there was sealed. Maybe he knows something about what Katie Couric is up to that the rest of America doesn't know. Maybe his agent knows.

Right now, it's all Kremlinology... or Katieology, whichever way you read the situation.

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