WSJ Washington Editor: Network Newscasts 'Don't Matter Anymore'
Network news is old news as far as politics is concerned.
According Gerald Seib, an assistant managing editor and the executive
âThis is a shakeout period for the press in general and the
The book Seib was referring to is âPennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power,â by him and John Harwood, CNBCâs chief
âAnd he [Abrams] talks about how in the Reagan White House where he worked, the whole place shut down between 6:30 and 7:30. All activity stopped because everybody wanted to see what was being broadcast on the ABC, CBS and NBC nightly news broadcasts. They were that important to the agenda in
Seib pointed out the forces that control the news agenda have been diluted by the rise of cable TV and the Internet.
âThereâs not that commonplace that dictates the agenda. People are watching news on cable television. Theyâre reading it online all day long. Itâs splintered, itâs fractured. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I can make an argument either way. Itâs a more democratized flow of news, but thereâs less sort of central understanding and a lot of people are getting their news the way they want it to be rather than the way it is and thatâs a bad thing. So, I donât know â itâs changing and thatâs the only thing I can say for sure. But itâs changed the way this town works, not just the way our business works.â
Harwood had a similar take on the state of the Washington media, remarking on the economics that is forcing the traditional institutions like The Washington Post and The New York Times to downsize.
âI think the business of journalism is under more stress than Iâve ever seen it in my lifetime,â Harwood said. âEverywhere I go, I talk to friends â there are buyouts on the table with The New York Times and The Washington Post. Many places are shrinking.â
Harwood joined The Wall Street Journal in 1991, but left late last year to go to The New York Times. He pointed out that under Rupert Murdochâs control, The Wall Street Journal is the exception to the trend.
âThe Rupert Murdoch Wall Street Journal is not shrinking right now, thatâs a positive thing, although my former colleagues there have concerns about that potentially,â Harwood said.
Harwood took the same position as Seib on the state of the news on the three major networks â ABC, CBS and NBC.
âI think the television networks are also under stress,â Harwood said. âThe Internet has changed everything. Cable television has changed everything. There is a culture of shouting and argumentation that has arisen thatâs different from the common conversation, which was a more civil conversation, that we grew up with.â
Harwoodâs father, Richard Harwood, was a long-time reporter and the first ombudsman for The Washington Post. He observed how things are different from the reporting his father did in the 1960s and 1970s.
âAnd finally, from a self-interest point-of-view, I think people like me, in what I do, matter less than what my dad did when he was practicing journalism because the mainstream media are not as respected, theyâre not as influential as they used to be. So, there are a whole lot more voices discussed at louder volumes and Iâm not sure whether it adds up to progress, but it is what it is and we have to cope with it.â
To survive in the world of modern professional journalism, journalists have to adapt and be able to versatile with all forms of media, Harwood said.
âAnd one of the ways weâre coping with it is youâre seeing more people like Gerry and me working across platforms â you know working in print, and television and on the Internet at the same time. And everybody, including the young people going into journalism, have to prepare for that world, where they can be very versatile.â