Justifying the network news anchor

Verne Gay has penned a nostalgic and romantic piece for Newsday that offers ten reasons why the solo network news anchor will (and should) remain an important fixture of our culture. Unfortunately, he — and many others like him — misses the bigger picture by focusing on the small.

This article is so full of Big‑J journalism mumbo-jumbo that it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s all irrelevant anyway, and I’ll get to that in a minute. First, here’s a particularly self-deluded paragraph: reason number two.

2 The safe harbor argument. This is predicated on the reasonable assumption that people, maybe even young people, will ultimately drift back to the tried-and-true when they’re sated on the blogosphere. Gerry Solomon, a veteran NBC News producer and now journalism professor at Queens College, says: “After a while, people will [eventually] become very leery of the blogosphere and … consumers will be left with a sense of ‘Where do we go next?’ Eventually, there will be a return to the tried-and-true that’s not ideological and that can be counted on to give you the plain facts.
Plain facts? Reasonable assumption? At very best, this is wishful thinking. “Let’s cling to this, because all this new stuff is just a fad anyway, and they’re going to need us when they finally (grow up and) realize how foolish they’ve been.” Oh my.

As long as news people continue to talk among themselves and ignore the thoughts of people who don’t consume news the old-fashioned way anymore, they will arrive at conclusions like the above. One of the marvelous revelations in my new media life came through a research project that actually had the courage to talk with people who don’t watch TV news anymore. Why this isn’t practiced throughout the industry is a mystery, until you consider that a fundamental concept of the “professional” press is that people are stupid and need guidance. Read this article with that in mind, and you’ll see what I mean. I am sick of this notion that a professional press is necessary for me, because they’re “standing in the gap” between me and the bad guys.

The problem is that people aren’t stupid. All we really need is the argument(s) that justifies — in the mind of the press — why story A gets more attention than story B. That’s how we make up our own minds, and it’s one of the energies driving the personal media revolution.

I think there will always be anchors, but I don’t see their role ever again being what it was. In Media 2.0 terms, a newscast is an aggregator of the events of the day, and the anchor is a part of that. The aggregator itself is shifting from the provider to the user, and there’s little or no need for an “anchor” in a Media 2.0 world. This is the ultimate reality that the high priests of journalism refuse to acknowledge, the turd in the punchbowl, if you will.

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