Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Future of Network TV News

The future of network TV news will endure for the foreseeable future. The scandalous circumstances surrounding a star network journalist is nothing more than a scuff mark on a juggernaut of a multi-billion dollar industry.

The TV network news are similar to the major airlines, financial institutions, auto industry – a small coterie of elite companies, deliberately structured in such a way that they’re all ‘too big to fail’ – despite many quality alternatives. Because of a hyper-competitive global environment, these goliaths are more nimble than they’re given credit for and adapt accordingly.

The concept of trust in the 21st century seems to have a different meaning than the previous century. Prior to Watergate most institutions had a level of trust comparable to that of Walter Cronkite who embodied the network TV news credibility.

Since then, mostly recently after the 2008 economic meltdown caused by dubious the policies and business deals by major financial institutions, society accepts a lower class of trust, better described as ‘reliability’ and ‘accuracy’ in which foreseeable and preventable foibles are accepted as long as companies admit to them and corrections are made. Nowadays society has bent the meaning of trust. It misplaces trust in the meaning of perfection, something one strives for but is considered unattainable. Consequently, ‘lies and damn lies’, regardless how egregious, are forgiven.

Psychologically, networks represent a dependable historical informational entity, a reference point.  Without this perceived bedrock institution there would be informational anarchy because there are no other acceptable alternatives.  Newcomers don’t have a broad-based national following and despite the credibility of bloggers as our citizen journalists, they pale in comparison to the resources, glitz and glamour of a media machine.  The unspoken truth is that Americans want to be entertained first, informed second. Even the Brian Williams scandal itself is an entertainment that has prompted higher ratings at ABC’s rival networks.

Networks provide the illusion of a baseline sense of order and credibility. And because of the high stakes involved, network TV news already has its public relations crisis management team to swiftly contain the damage. An intelligence agency doesn’t fold shop or becomes less relevant because of the discovery of a mole.

Additionally, network TV news is ‘safe’ because due to economic arrangements, their editorial parameters are limited to what is acceptable by their nationwide audience and advertisers represented by conglomerates.

As economic juggernauts, these same network conglomerates make possible that major league sports and sporting events are presented in a world-class entertaining manner that the American public has come to expect.

Besides, Americans have notoriously short memories. Celebrity journalists are chosen first by their looks and personalities, second by their journalistic acumen.  The demographics for network journalists have changed little over the years like the fashion industry despite globalization and a greater number of professional women and people of color in all industries.

Conglomerates realize that people don’t stop buying the latest fashion because there’s a dearth of people of color on the runway or in the top fashion houses. The same applies with the network TV news. Any changes in the upper echelons of particular industries are superficial while the pace of deeper change is glacial.

Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2015.  All rights reserved.

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