same old.. same old…
When television was launched by David Sarnoff at the 1939 World’s Fair in NY, no one knew what to do with it.
Think Internet 1992.
But they knew what to do with radio.
Radio was the dominant medium of the day. And to do radio, (particularly radio news in this case) you sat a guy down at a desk with a microphone in front of him and he read the news.
When television arrived, the best people were working in radio, and wanted to stay there. So television was left to the (ahem) less than best people who were told – essentially – figure it out. (Think internet arrives at newspapers and TV stations c.1998)
What they decided to do was to take a television camera and stick it in the radio newsroom while the guy was reading the news.
Voila! (as the French would say), TV News!
Does this look familiar?
Above, we have the Camel Caravan of News (NBC) with John Cameron Swayze (1949).
Do you see something familiar between John Cameron Swayze and Scott Pelley, the new anchor at CBS News?
Does it look pretty much the same after 62 years?
Isn’t this astonishing?
Isn’t this astonishing for a medium that supposedly is on the cutting edge of technology?
By way of comparison, let’s take a look at a computer from 1949:
and not a computer from 2011
see any difference?
Why have computers matured so much over the past 62 years while TV news has remained pretty much unchanged? Unevolved?
Part of the reason is inherent in the industry. It is an industry driven not by risk, but rather by fear.
When I was at CBS News we used to call the place Cubicles of Fear.
The reason was that the risks for any innovation were so high (if you tried something and it failed, they fired you), and the rewards so scanty.
Unlike online start-ups, no one at CBS News got equity in CBS, so what was the reward for big growth? Nothing.
This was driven home to me by a piece in Tom Petner’s new The 24/7 Newsroom
Willie Chrisman, a blogger for the site, wrote “Is CBS Daring To Be Different”?
Well, I thought, maybe they are.
It’s been a few weeks now since Scott Pelley took over as anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News and it’s been interesting to note the evolution taking place there. It all started a bit oddly. With relatively little fanfare, Pelley ascended to the chair previously held by Katie Couric and, before that of course, Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite. Odd particularly compared to the fanfare that accompanied Couric’s debut. It was almost as if they didn’t want anybody to know what they were doing. And immediately it seemed clear they wanted to take the broadcast in a different direction.
Come on Willie
I watched the broadcast.
I can’t see any difference.
In the real world there is not a dime’s worth of difference between Scott Pelley, Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams or Walter Cronkite.
Is it any wonder that viewership is dropping like a stone?
Come on, take a risk – a real risk – before it’s too late.
As Dan Rather used to say – looking and sounding like everyone else