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The Idea is Still Alive

We join the mourners for Carol Marin and wbbm-tv's experiment in late news, which, in the words of the station, "disbanded" this week. We give credit and, when we can, encouragement to any effort that ranks quality as the highest priority. Ironically, only two days before the final broadcast, Marin brought home a local Emmy for her work on the program.

But we will not mourn this as the death of quality in TV news. As Chicago viewers and other interested parties weighed in in local papers, there were comments that were both perceptive and predictable: too dry, too hard, too humorless, too centered on the anchor. Legendary CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, in a letter to
The New York Times
, acknowledged some production flaws but concluded that TV news has "dumbed down" to meet its audience. We disagree-although, perhaps not as strongly as we'd like.

Are there stations-indeed, many stations-that pander to the lowest-common denominator and offer silly chat, silly stories and silly anchors and reporters? Of course.

But there are also stations whose philosophy is to put on the best newscast they can, adhering to the best practices and principles of journalism. As a disappointed but still upbeat Marin herself told us last week, there are many stations doing great newscasts in this country, and, she said, graciously, WBBM-TV may still be one of them. The station has pledged to retain the quality of Marin's newscast, but in a way that's more viewer-friendly.

Chicago is a great news town. One of the obstacles the long-suffering WBBM-TV faced and still faces is the strong competition from other newscasts. The revamped newscast will have to be good to do well.