Sunday, July 25, 2004

Lehrer's Challenge to Network Anchors

Lehrer's Challenge to Network Anchors
Bloggers Tell More, Networks Tell Less.


What you can't do is watch wall-to-wall primetime coverage on ABC, CBS and NBC.

This year, the big three networks are planning to devote just three primetime hours to the Democratic and Republican conventions, from 10 to 11 p.m. on three out of four nights. Boston's big-ticket items include former president Bill Clinton's speech tonight, vice presidential candidate John Edwards' acceptance speech Wednesday, and presidential candidate John Kerry's acceptance speech Thursday, all at 10 p.m.

That's a 25 percent drop in airtime from the networks' already-paltry 2000 commitment, which consisted of four hours per party, doled out over four nights. (The lone holdout is PBS, which will offer live coverage of both conventions from 8 to 11 each night, courtesy of "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.")

Said NBC News president Neal Shapiro, "With all due respect to everybody who wants us to cover more, if there's news there, I promise you we'll cover it more. The parties have done their best to take every bit of news out of the conventions."


Jim Lehrer, champion of the people, challenges the network anchors by saying:
"You guys are a hell of a lot more important than your bosses are willing to admit."


"I think that starting tomorrow, we're going to have four of the eight most important days we can have as a nation," said Lehrer, criticizing CBS's Dan Rather, ABC's Peter Jennings, and NBC's Tom Brokaw for not getting more air time. "I'm sorry. You guys are a hell of a lot more important than your bosses are willing to admit."

Addressing the challenges of covering politics in a politically polarized environment, CBS Rather stated that "fear has increased in every newsroom in America," and added that reporting on explosive issues can bring a torrent of e-mails and phone calls. That can lead to a situation, he said, in which journalists conclude that "when you run this story, you're asking for trouble with a capital 'T'. . . Why run it?"


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