click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCTrump Administration transition, policies previewedAppointments for Attorney General, NSC, CIAAndrea MitchellNo Dateline
video thumbnailCBSTrump Administration transition, policies previewedDemocrats critical of both Flynn and SessionsNancy CordesCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABCNSC Advisor Michael Flynn appointedIntelligence expert was fired by President ObamaMartha RaddatzCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABCTrump University sued for real estate seminar fraudSettlement agreed without trial: $25m payoutRebecca JarvisNew York
video thumbnailCBSIllegal immigration: sanctuary cities backlashLocal police pressured to help ICE deportationsBen TracyLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCThanksgiving Day holiday previewedDinner tables brace for political family feudsKevin TibblesChicago
video thumbnailCBSLead poisoning monitoring in MichiganToddlers tested for toxins in water, paintDon DahlerMichigan
video thumbnailABCBank credit, debit card rates, fees, chargesInterest hike expected for holiday shoppingGio BenitezNew York
video thumbnailNBCBrain concussion treatments vary by type of damageSome sports injuries require exercise, not restTammy LeitnerPittsburgh
video thumbnailCBSUSTreasury bills counterfeit experts based in PeruSecret Service find $30m in high quality fakesErrol BarnettPeru
THE LONG & SHORT OF THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS At the end of the first week, two criteria have emerged for assessing whether the impeachment hearings are proving successful at using the medium of television to achieve their political ends. Are they attracting a massive audience? Are they producing compelling drama?

In fact they may not be two separate criteria at all. Instead they seem to be two sides of the same coin. They assume this argument: in order to attract eyeballs the hearings have to appeal as entertainment, they have to have "pizzazz." If they fail to attract a mass audience -- fail to attract the same universal attention that the televised Watergate hearings attracted almost half a century ago -- then that is evidence of their lack of appeal as entertainment: hence, no pizzazz.

At root these criteria arise from an anachronistic media worldview not a contemporary political worldview. They assume that a mass audience still exists, ready to be summoned to their television sets, to sit down simultaneously to share the same live media content. The objection of no pizzazz turns out not to be a complaint about the content of the hearings, but a complaint that we no longer live in the 1970s.

Nowadays, that old-fashioned mass-medium gavel-to-gavel television enters the contemporary media ecosystem differently, not all at once and universally. It is now video, not television…and video is both quicker and slower, shorter and longer.

The short form impact is when micro-exchanges circulate as soundbites in news reports and in virally-shared gifs on social media. These can be flamboyant, like Jim Jordan's jacketless histrionics on the first day of the hearings, or they could be crisp and concise diplomatic understatements from a diction-perfect bow-tied Foggy Bottomer; or they could be that tell-all soundbite on the second day of hearings from the confrontation between Mr Tweeting President and Madame Witness Ambassador: "…very intimidating."

That is one way the hearings continue to exist beyond their live daytime audience.

As far as the long form is concerned, the contemporary media ecosystem teaches us that it is not the literal size of a daily audience that is a marker of cultural impact. In the era of streaming video, close viewing of continual hours by a hardcore committed audience -- binge-watching -- turns out to have a multiplier effect that has a more durable impact than superficial viewing by larger numbers of casual observers. Binge-watchers will not only tolerate hours of seemingly pizzazzless intricacy, they thrive on arcane details, developing conspiracies, quirky characters, devious sub-plots.

The multiplier effect is produced when binge-watchers share their obsessions. If in the 1970s, broadcasters relied on a network of local television stations to pipe their signal into everyone's homes, modern video relies on the social network instead, whereby committed viewers share the import of its streamed signal with the population at large.

Thus the hearings can enter the public square quickly and slowly, in short form and in long form, as viral gifs and as long-form binges. They do not depend on a universal live audience. And they do not depend on pizzazz to attract a mass of eyeballs.

JEFF GLOR'S ANCHORING STYLE With changes afoot at the anchor desk at CBS Evening News, it is time for a periodic reminder of the state of journalism at the flagship nightly newscasts of the three broadcast networks.

The audiences for the three newscasts remain substantial, averaging well in excess of 20m viewers every night, a total that is larger than any other journalistic format in any medium. ABC World News Tonight has recently edged slightly ahead of NBC Nightly News as the leader in audience size. However the difference between the two is more a matter of bragging rights than a matter of substance. CBS Evening News, on the other hand, is clearly in third place.

That third place position may seem to warrant the replacement of anchor Jeff Glor but such an assumption would not be justified. The underperformance of the newscast in attracting an audience under Glor is no worse than under any of his predecessors, dating all the way back to Dan Rather.

Glor's arrival in the anchor chair, following Scott Pelley, did bring with it a change in the pacing and visual style of the newscast. These changes served to integrate it with the headline-delivery service of CBS News' 24-hour digital content.

Nowadays, David Muir at ABC and Lester Holt at NBC both kick off their newscasts with an exhaustive recitation of the upcoming contents of the day's newscast, as if they were some seemingly interminable waiter offering the menu at a pretentious restaurant. Glor's newscast, by contrast, kicks off with quotes from headlines from other newscasts -- reminding viewers that CBS News swims in the sea of the continuous 24-hour news cycle.

Glor's anchoring style, too, projects the sense that viewers are watching the ongoing efforts of a working newsroom, rather than the polished conclusion of an effort to summarize the day's key newsworthy developments. Glor often addresses his correspondents rather than his viewers: he'll give them a pep talk on a well-sourced segment; he'll chuckle over a memorable soundbite; tears will well up over an emotional piece of human interest.

Viewers of this iteration of CBS Evening News are put in the position of spectators to the operation of a newsroom rather than consumers of finished object that that newsroom has produced.

All three newscasts have adapted their journalistic approach in response to contemporary conditions. Invented as newscasts of record -- the sole source of daily audio-visual reportage on national and international news -- they no longer have to shoulder the responsibility of comprehensiveness. All sorts of previously compulsory topics are now overlooked.

Chief among these are international developments. Admittedly, CBS has not cut back on its foreign coverage as drastically as ABC or NBC. Nevertheless all three newscasts are shells of their former selves as far as global news coverage is concerned. Budgetary considerations are clearly a factor here -- both the money saved from closing expensive overseas bureaus, and ratings buoyed by concentrating on the domestic topics that audiences tend to prefer.

But also, more abstract beats -- those that are less apt for televisual journalism -- are more glancingly covered than they used to be. The economy and healthcare have taken the biggest hit, being replaced by more kinetic beats such as crime, transportation and weather.

This sacrifice of the abstract for the kinetic is most clearly seen each night on ABC's newscast. On World News Tonight, the criterion for newsworthiness is not such much the event's importance or consequence -- but the availability of dynamic video to illustrate it.

ABC has recognized that TV journalists no longer have a privileged role in collecting such video. Amateurs with their cellphones and surveillance cameras -- on dashboards, on the bodies of police officers, on CCTV systems -- are ubiquitously positioned to record events. Its newscast, therefore, is less the production of news-gatherers and more that of video editors, narrating images procured from elsewhere.

The downside of ABC's switch from gathering to editing is that fewer of its stories are either abstract or important or consequential. Routinely, each night, there are two or three stories that are properly local news -- a traffic accident, a rogue cop, a tree downed in a storm -- with no national impact whatsoever. The upside is that these inconsequential stories are accompanied by dynamic, kinetic video, underlining ABC's oft-repeated claim that it is delivering Breaking News.

Thus CBS and ABC both tell us, in their own way, that they are newscasts swimming in the sea of the continuous 24-hour news cycle: ABC by cherry-picking and packaging the most vivid (domestic) events of the last 24 hours; CBS by inviting us to sample the production of its newsroom over that same timeframe. ABC specializes in news and in video; CBS in background features and in the soundbites of real people.

It turns out that the current state of the body politic has been a godsend for ABC. The potential flaw in its decisive switch to Video Breaking News was always that it would thereby consign itself to mere trivia, unable to claim with a straight face that it was covering affairs of state. The arrival of Donald Trump turned out to be the happy solution to that conundrum.

ABC has embraced the turmoil of the Trump Presidency with enthusiasm, spending more time on the White House beat, more time on Brett Kavanaugh and Robert Mueller and Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. The fact that Trump's tenure has been so light on serious abstract public policy proposals and so heavy on outrageous defiance of norms means that ABC can have its cake and eat it: cover affairs of state without having to abandon its dedication to the kinetic. CBS, by contrast, has consistently spent most time on controversies surrounding race and immigration, the most incendiary of Trump's public policies.

That same Trump Turmoil has caused difficulties for the winning formula traditionally adopted by NBC Nightly News. During its prolonged period of pre-eminence in the ratings, first under anchor Tom Brokaw, then his successor Brian Williams, NBC structured its newscast with a first-half emphasis on foreign and domestic policy inside-the-Beltway; and a second-half of features on the daily lives whose problems those policies were supposed to address.

It was a formula adopted during Tim Russert's tenure as DC Bureau chief and implemented by such NBC mainstays as Andrea Mitchell, Pete Williams and Chuck Todd. NBC always focused on the administrative developments of the alphabet soup of federal agencies -- FDA, EPA, FTC, FAA and so on -- a beat developed by Robert Hager and taken up by Tom Costello.

Trump's arrival represented a crisis for this formula. What happens when the DC correspondent's job is no longer to report on the functioning of the federal government -- but its dysfunction? NBC finally threw in that towel last fall and its replacement iteration has been a work in progress for the past six months.

Holt's NBC newscast is now as rapidly paced as Muir's at ABC, but without its rigid insistence on video breaking news. The role of the DC bureau has been scaled back -- but it is not the newshole for local-news-style crime-weather-accidents that has been significantly enlarged in response. Instead it seems that a morning-show sensibility is being added.

As noted, NBC Nightly News still seems to be a work in progress but there are signs that the beats it will focus on instead of the Beltway will include coverage of celebrities, on the impact of popular culture, of hi-tech and digital trends, of personal health and lifestyle problems.

A shift more towards Today than towards Eyewitness News.

LESTER HOLT IS A RACE MAN Megyn Kelly's confession on NBC's Today that she had only yesterday learned about "the history of blackface being used in awful ways by racists" stands in such stark contrast to recent changes at her network's other daily flagship newscast NBC Nightly News.

It is now three years since Lester Holt took over as nightly anchor of NBC's newscast. For most of that time Holt, an African-American, projected a persona that was uninflected by racial insights. It was as if he needed to reassure his audience that this person of color was not going to color the content of the news.

If Holt had pointed out how an acknowledgement of the legacy of racism was necessary for understanding contemporary America…or if he had chosen unusual stories to cover, ones in which the racial component was central…then he would run the risk of crossing the line from mainstream journalist to black activist.

It seems that Holt's self-denying ordinance has now been repealed. By no means is he now transformed into a Black Lives Matter flamethrower -- but he is certainly presenting himself and his newscast as one where it would be unthinkable to be able to claim ignorance about the history blackface, as Kelly did. More than that, his newscast is bringing such history into the front of mind.

In September, Holt was clearly delighted at the racial pride of a dark-skinned twelve-year-old girl and her sister, marketing a line of Flexin' In Her Complexion T-shirts. It is such a favorite that it is posted as an Inspiring America anecdote on the NBC Nightly News homepage to this day.

Just since the start of the month of October, there have been a dozen examples of Nightly News segments that explicitly feature a racial angle, either a tribute to black pride or, more often, observing the continued disadvantages that African-Americans face in everyday life merely by dint of their race: Babysitting While Black, Sports-watching While Black, Apartment-dwelling While Black, and so on. Those designated with a hashtag were filed by Holt himself.

Often on the nightly news, a story is selected for coverage because of its universally-acknowledged headline-grabbing nature. If all the stories in this dozen were appearing not only on NBC Nightly News, but on CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight also, then it would be harder to make the claim that Holt is displaying a hitherto-unseen race-consciousness. However, few of these examples were deemed newsworthy by NBC's two rival networks (those designated with an asterisk were covered by ABC; none by CBS). Similarly, there are few examples of ABC or CBS covering stories with an African-American angle that NBC ignored.

Oct 3rd: The Talk by African-American parents dramatized in The Hate U Give#

Oct 5th: Kenan Thompson is Saturday Night Live mainstay#

Oct 9th: Jim-Crow-era lynching museum in Montgomery#

Oct 9th: Rev Martin Luther King's church organist still plays#

Oct 11th: Lost black teenager asks for help, dodges homeowner's bullet*

Oct 11th: History of racial redlining in Kansas City#

Oct 12th: Black male babysitter arouses white woman's suspicions

Oct 15th: White woman harasses black neighbor in St Louis apartment*

Oct 17th: Black soccer dad singled out for shouting on sidelines*

Oct 18th: Lack of concern about missing pregnant black mail carrier*

Oct 22nd: Ryanair passenger racially abuses woman in next seat

Oct 24th: School violence plot by anti-biracial bigot spotted on Facebook

On this evidence, NBC News appears to have a white racial ignoramus as one of its anchors on Today…and an African-American race man as its anchor on the Nightly News.