Did CBS News just make a big mistake?
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CBS' evening newscast is arguably the best of the broadcast lot. But it's mired in third place for multiple reasons, including lousy so-called "lead ins" from local affiliated stations.
Is that why Scott Pelley is on his way out of the anchor chair but continuing his "60 Minutes" gig at CBS? Was it bad relations with the very sharp CBS News chief David Rhodes? Or a combination of the two?
That was unclear in press reports after The New York Post's Page Six broke the story of his abrupt departure. This was all pretty closely held, with two CBS executives I know taken aback by the move's suddenness.
In the hours after its disclosure, many hustled to recover the story and most credited Page Six. That's either high-mindedness or craving to run a story they couldn't independently confirm.
The sourcing was murky at times and, in the early cascade, one of the more intriguing came from The Daily Beast. It cited as one of many factors tough contract negotiating by Ari Emanuel, a prominent Hollywood agent used by Pelley.
Ultimately, the resulting tactical question was broached, if not necessarily accurately, by The Washington Post.
"The move is risky for CBS, since news viewers typically grow loyal to a particular anchor and a change in a familiar face can lead them to go elsewhere."
Is it? Was that geriatric evening news audience "loyal" to Pelley? Are they somehow more "loyal" to ABC's David Muir or NBC's Lester Holt.
You can stipulate that the broadcast news audiences remain comparatively huge — certainly compared to the audiences for cable news networks that get a preponderance of the press' TV coverage on news. But loyalty to any anchor is surely diminishing amid the unavoidable fragmentation of how we consume media.
"All three evening news networks have seen a year-to-year decline in audience. In the May sweeps period measured by Nielsen, three network evening newscasts collectively reached an average of 21.3 million viewers a night, down 6 percent from a year earlier." (Los Angeles Times)
"Notably, 'CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley' was down more than its two competitors — 9 percent to 6.1 million viewers."
"Pelley improved the ratings when he first took over for Katie Couric in June 2011. But CBS has been third in the evening news ratings race going back to the late 1990s, when Dan Rather was at the helm, despite the news division’s improved competitive position with 'CBS This Morning' and 'Face the Nation.'"
Rhodes has a big decision to make when it comes to a replacement. It's nowhere near as big a decision as it might have been 20 years ago. But it's big.
Perhaps you use the dust-up with Pelley (said to have been unhappy a while back with making only $5 million a year) to attempt to somehow differentiate yourself amid the three nightly rivals' often numbing editorial homogeneity.
It's an old question that's led to many meetings at the networks over the years and, ultimately, tweaks, not major renovations. TV executives remain a caution-filled victim of resounding past success.
This was bungled as far as the announcement, rather un-CBS-like. That's over. Now comes the next selection. There seems a deep bench but no obvious successor.
Do you make a play for what you think is the future with somebody like Jeff Glor, even CNN's Anderson Cooper? A pure ratings play by going outside for, yes, somebody like jobless CBS alum Bill O'Reilly? Or stick with his expected substitute, very steady and vanilla Anthony Mason?
And, hey, what about "Face the Nation's" John Dickerson? Smart, good, likable, right there.
There are options, with only one thing sure amid the early reporting: David Rhodes is in charge at CBS News and his boss, Les Moonves, better have his back.
Trump spying on journalists?
The New York Post's John Crudele quotes "a Washington source of mine" and informing him that "The Justice Department has gotten a warrant from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — also known as the FISA court — to conduct electronic surveillance on a group of journalists who’ve been the recipient of leaked information, the source said."
"The journalists are not the target, according to my source — and I say, thank goodness for that. Instead, the Trump administration is looking for the leaker. Who could it be?"
Well, a Washington source of mine says...
Mary Meeker's latest
Mary Meeker, a onetime Morgan Stanley analyst now at a prominent venture capital firm, draws attention with an annual slide presentation on the internet and related issues.
As her latest slide deck underscores, "Since 2011, the amount of time Americans spend with print has dropped about 40 percent. But the amount of ad dollars that go to print has dropped even more." (NiemanLab)
Recode's take underscores the following:
"Global smartphone growth is slowing: Smartphone shipments grew 3 percent year over year last year, versus 10 percent the year before. This is in addition to continued slowing internet growth, which Meeker discussed last year."
"Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries. Twenty percent of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016, while accuracy is now about 95 percent."
Amid metrics mania
Theo Epstein, the onetime wunderkind baseball executive who runs the Chicago Cubs, is associated with a metrics-driven analytical approach that's also gained great prominence in journalism.
But that's a caricature, as he inadvertently reminded the graduating class at Yale, his alma mater, during a very good address. He broached the Cubs' own return from the seeming dead in last year's 7th game of the World Series, which included a rain delay at a key moment (now seen as a time when the team rallied emotionally).
"And please remember that even though so much can be quantified these days, the most important things cannot be. And, finally, when things go really, really wrong — and then when it rains on top of everything else — I ask you to choose to keep your heads up and come together, to connect, and to rally around one another, especially those who need it the most. It is likely to uplift you all." (Time)
A reaction from the right on Trump-Paris Accord
Amid Trump's seeming indecision came a look at look from Commentary magazine at the inherent structural weakness of the accord:
"Proponents once argued they had built something imposing — 'the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis,' as President Obama described it, with 'bold' and 'ambitious' targets. But the prospect of the queen bee leaving the table prompted assurances that participation is really no inconvenience at all. Please, Mr. Trump, just stay for dessert!"
"This revised view is closer to the truth. The Accord was doomed before negotiators ever assembled for photographs in December 2015."
"They were not there to commit each country to meaningful greenhouse-gas reductions; rather, everyone submitted their voluntary pledges in advance, and all were accepted without scrutiny. Pledges did not have to mention emissions levels, nor were there penalties for falling short. The conference itself was, in essence, a stapling exercise."
But the mainstream media consensus is otherwise, for sure, in speculating about Trump getting out. One example is Bloomberg Businessweek's take that it would undermine U.S. competitiveness and technological innovation.
Speaking truth to power for a long time
"After 33 years of holding politicians to account while at The Sacramento Bee, Dan Walters will write a farewell column on Sunday."
"Walters called it like it is at the Capitol through the terms of five California governors: George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson,
Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown — both times.
Walters wrote more than 9,000 columns. (The Sacramento Bee)
Trying to turn a buck (pound) via freebies
"In the last week, The Economist has grown its pool of prospective subscribers by 5,000 in the U.K. by offering free content." (Digiday)
"As part of a wider campaign around the U.K.’s general election on June 8, the publisher is giving away a free copy of The Economist’s endorsement issue coming out on June 3."
Big day at The Times
The newspaper killed the public editor position, offering a long and defensible rationale that didn't sit well with all, including Poynter's Kelly McBride:
"No, New York Times! Not the public editor! Why, with trust in news organizations at an all-time low, would you cut the one position dedicated to holding your journalists to account in public? We need you to reconsider."
A telling memo involved a buyout program and what will be a dramatic change in what will be a less intensive copy editing process.
Here's a free idea for some journalism student
Just compare the amount of time cable news spent on the act of terrorism in Manchester vs. what it spent on a far deadlier one in Kabul. You wouldn't know it, but Afghan Lives Matter.
Here's heavy-duty attribution
From a Gloria Borger CNN story:
"'He now lives within himself, which is a dangerous place for Donald Trump to be,' says someone who speaks with the President. 'I see him emotionally withdrawing. He's gained weight. He doesn't have anybody whom he trusts.'"
Got it? "...Says someone who speaks with the President." Even by Washington's low standards, that's pretty loosey-goosey attribution from a solid veteran.
The cable wars
"Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, which contributes an estimated 20 percent of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s profits, continues to get the biggest audience overall by far, according to Nielsen research cited by the network." (Bloomberg) Here's the "but":
"The bulk of those viewers are older and considered less lucrative to advertisers. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was the top draw at 9 p.m. among viewers ages 25 to 54 for the third straight month, and her network won that demographic in prime time on weeknights for the first time since 2000. Fox still won in all age groups for the full week including Saturdays and Sundays."
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" strained this morning as it opened with the allegedly top news: Kathy Griffin's beheading photo, the "Nixonian bitterness" of Hillary Clinton during her Code Conference interview and a Republican-driven probe into the "unmasking" by then-President Obama of Trump campaign team members (yes, photos of Susan Rice and Samantha Power). Throw in the cop video of Tiger Woods after the DUI arrest.
CNN's "New Day" went after the "unmasking probe" as the distinctly political exercise it is, though co-host Chris Cuomo played devil's advocate and pressed garrulous counter-terrorism pundit Phil Mudd on the matter. Meanwhile, it speculated about former FBI Director James Comey's Senate testimony next week and what happens if he essentially calls Trump a liar.
"Morning Joe" underscored what co-host Joe Scarborough feels is continuous Trump administration lying about contacts with Russian officials, notably the Russian ambassador. "It's hard to give them the benefit of the doubt," said AP reporter Julie Pace, with the consensus here that the cover-up might once again be greater than any actual misdeed.
Brothers get bounced
Here's a very good business story from The Wall Street Journal: How two brothers, including the company chairman, got bounced by the board at a healthcare company founded by their dad.
The bureaucracy fights back
How did the mainstream press miss this?
"Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the public, the National Trust for Historic Preservation reported Wednesday that it had raised more than $8 million in just three days to demolish President Trump’s boyhood home in Queens, NY."
Thanks, The Onion.
Correction: Anthony Mason is expected to be the interim replacement for Scott Pelley on the "CBS Evening News." Gloria Borger, not Mason, anchored the show last evening.