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What's The Frequency, Kenneth?

Dan Rather stepping down raises the pressing question -- who watches network newscasts anymore anyways? Old people, I guess.

November 23, 2004 | Permalink

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» Dan Rather resigns from Neutiquam erro...
The Blogosphere is all a-buzz with the news that CBS anchorman Dan Rather has resigned. I'll let them do the talking, though I must say this was coming. [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 23, 2004 2:50:12 PM

» Blogosphere Reaction To Rather's Departure from Powerpundit
Here is some of the reaction of the blogosphere to the impending departure of Dan Rather: Roger L. Simon:According to ABC, Dan Rather is stepping down as anchor of the CBS Evening News. He will still be keeping his role on "Sixty Minutes II", but I ima... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 23, 2004 4:57:50 PM

» A Rather Long Time To Wait from The Moderate Voice
CBS let nature take its course and announced the expected retirement of CBS News anchor Dan Rather -- which let him retire with dignity, instead of being forced out due to the September faked memos scandal that led to [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 23, 2004 10:52:29 PM

Comments

I watch them! Where else can you get unbiased coverage of the Vioxx scandal, given that Pfizer is about 64% of the ad revenue for those shows?

God, all the Rather-haters in the right-wing blogosphere are going to become insufferable right about now.

Posted by: Dimmy Karras | Nov 23, 2004 2:24:57 PM

Judging by the ads, I'd say the average network news viewer is impotent, incontinent, and suffering from acid reflux.

Posted by: Bragan | Nov 23, 2004 2:50:25 PM

i watched CBS for a bit on election night and was amazed that all their people looked like they were at least 70 years old. they'd better get some new blood in there soon.

Posted by: cleek | Nov 23, 2004 3:02:43 PM

"What's the frequency, Kenneth?" is an unfair reference to a line of Rather-bashing. I read years later that the mystery had been resolved by a confession. Enforcement thugs for a loan shark mistook Mr. Rather for the person they were seeking to, um, dun for collections, a man named Kenneth who had not kept up with the required frequency of debt payments. Dan Rather really was assaulted by men saying "What's the frequency, Kenneth?"

Posted by: kenneth | Nov 23, 2004 3:08:52 PM

Old people are old.

Posted by: Butthead | Nov 23, 2004 3:10:25 PM

"I watched CBS for a bit on election night and was amazed that all their people looked like they were at least 70 years old"

Well, Rather was born in 1931. I wouldn't read a lot of significance into the fact that a man of his age is retiring . . .

Posted by: rea | Nov 23, 2004 3:23:59 PM

I suppose you're correct, since I continue to tend to flip around the three most nights. It helps to not be able to afford cable tv. And, no, it's not so much to get the news as to see what news some people are getting. However, there remain various stories where video is an important component beyond words (and it helps to only be able to afford a dial-up connection and own a P1 computer, so watching video online isn't practical), and, further, your apparent implication that the three networks no longer produce any reporting of worth is dubious; I expect that's just a product of hasty writing, however, rather than your belief (which I'm guessing is that you find it more practical to catch their relevant reporting online).

Posted by: Gary Farber | Nov 23, 2004 3:38:59 PM

A better question: Who watches CBS network news?

Posted by: tjlang | Nov 23, 2004 3:46:17 PM

Each network gets about a 2+ rating in the 25-54 demo.
(I'm 43 -- am I old, Matt?) By comparison, O'Reilly (which
is the top rated cable news show) gets something like 1.9
for *all* ages (I'd guess, to be really generous, about 1.5
or less for this demographic). Other cable shows are much less
than this.

So to answer, millions and millions. It's just less than it used
to be.

Posted by: matt | Nov 23, 2004 4:05:06 PM

I've never regularly watched network TV news as I much prefer reading to viewing when it comes to getting information. I estimate I get as much in five minutes of time reading a newspaper or a news website as I get watching a half hour of television news. About the only exception I make is for News Hour on PBS when there's someone in particular I'd like to hear interviewed.

Posted by: David W. | Nov 23, 2004 4:09:19 PM

Seeing as how Jim Lehrer broadcasts out of DC, we can declare Peter Jennings the winner of Survivor: New York.

I think Rather could do a nice version of Sue Hawk's "snake" speech.

Posted by: SamAm | Nov 23, 2004 4:12:09 PM

Rather, Shmazer - what's the difference? Someone else will read bullshit somebody else wrote.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 23, 2004 4:19:39 PM

I watch network news about once every 4 years -- on election night. I think of myself as a relatively well-informed person, so I started wondering -- just where do I get my news? Here's what I came up with:

I scan the headlines of the newspapers (NY Times, SF Chronicle, WSJ) that we get at work and that are strewn around the break room. If I see something that interests me, typically I look it up online. I read various other news sources online, too, depending on what comes up in blogs and Google News. I sometimes catch part of "All Things Considered," either on my way home (on the rare days that I drive) or while I'm cooking dinner. My husband and I subscribe to various weeklies and monthlies, including The Economist, The Nation, the New Yorker, Harper's, and the MIT alumni magazine. I have plenty of time to read these during my long public transport commute. (Sigh.)

Oh, and the Daily Show and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me are good for finding out what the most talked-about news stories of the week are, just in case we missed something....

Posted by: janet | Nov 23, 2004 4:24:46 PM

I'm guessing CBS will replace Dan Rather either with Adel Al-Jubeir or Mohammed Al-Sahaf.

Posted by: Modern Crusader | Nov 23, 2004 4:51:50 PM

Those were the days when people actually did watch network news. Poor Dan never did achieve the stature of Uncle Walt as an anchor but he did manage to piss Nixon off in a major way. Its hard to imagine there was a time when people actually trusted network news and when the antics of a Sinclair Broadcasting would have been unthinkable. Viva le blogosphere!

Posted by: dapman | Nov 23, 2004 4:52:34 PM

Like a lot of people, my work schedule doesn't allow me to get home soon enough to watch the network news broadcasts, so I rarely see the Big 3 anchors. On election night, I flipped around looking for someone I could stand to listen to consistently. ABC's Jennings seemed the best of a poor lot, though I didn't like the format or supporting cast as well as NBC's or CBS's.
The anchor job is an odd thing, anyway. I'd like to think that the anchor is a real journalist with real reportorial chops and editorial judgment, not just a blow-dried enunciator, but I see no evidence that those qualities affect what gets on the air or how well it is delivered. From what I as a consumer can actually see, the nets could hire professional actors cheaper with no noticeable difference (except possibly for the better) in performance. Of course, there is probably a reason that networks worry so much about who the anchor is and spend so much on one -- possibly an instance of "superstar" economics, where nearly infinitesimal differences in quality (however defined) reap outsized differential rewards, and, if so, I'd like to know what it is.
For what it's worth, I used to have a rule of thumb that ugly TV reporters had to be very good or they'd never keep their jobs, (think Daniel Schorr or Irving R. Levine), but hardly anyone is ugly anymore.

Posted by: C.J.Colucci | Nov 23, 2004 5:47:56 PM

I am 68 and have given up on getting
information from television. By the way,
don't knock us; what goes around, comes
around.

Posted by: Old Guy | Nov 23, 2004 6:27:33 PM

Matt,
I hope it’s o.k. that I read part of your post on my Podcast today. Every day I read what people are saying in the blogosphere into an MP3 and make is available via RSS feed from http://feeds.feedburner.com/ripnread. I used your description of the audience for Rather as an example of what people are saying on the web. Listen if you have time. You appear several times in my recent 10+ podcasts.

Charlie

Posted by: Charlie Quidnunc | Nov 23, 2004 7:08:48 PM

Some 26 million "old people".

Posted by: robin | Nov 23, 2004 8:25:58 PM

Podcast?

Posted by: Matthew Vadum | Nov 23, 2004 9:14:15 PM

who watches network newscasts anymore anyways?

Bloggers

Posted by: Rick DeMent | Nov 24, 2004 9:51:06 AM

I remember the Nixon press event near the end when he picked Rather for a question and the press corps applauded. Nixon quiped; " Are you running for something?' Rather responded; "No Mr. President, are you?" My jaw hit the ground.

Posted by: judson | Nov 24, 2004 10:34:08 AM

I love Dan Rather.

Posted by: Kiril | Nov 24, 2004 10:58:11 AM

I Tivo Jennings and Brokaw - I've found that ABC (Jennings) pretty consistently has better information. Tivo is great because I can fast forward through the stories that I'm not already familiar with. There's still reporting worth hearing about via the broadcast news - like the one ABC just covered about the Traditional Values Coalition trying to rewrite history by having the video shown at the Lincoln Memorial showing protestors over time. TVC didn't like the feminists, anti-war folks, and especially the guy carrying the sign that said "The Lord is my shepherd and he knows I'm gay." TVC is virulently anti-gay and has access to power. Their exec dir is married to a former DeLay press secretary and worked for the Reagan administration. I wouldn't have known any of this if ABC hadn't gotten my attention with the "rewriting history" story and spurred me on to research online. (I posted on what I found about TVC on my blog, in case anyone wants to know more about our opponents.)

Posted by: Kathy | Nov 24, 2004 3:55:12 PM

I'm 25 and constantly find myself watching ABC World News Tonight. I don't know why, but I find a nice 30 min roundup of the non-internet news (you know, the kind you get wasting away at work!) to be refreshing at the end of the day.

Posted by: Adrock | Nov 24, 2004 4:18:56 PM

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