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RTNDA Briefs

Back to Baghdad

NBC and CNN said last week that they will open bureaus in Baghdad—reopening, in CNN's case—to cover the transition to new government following the war. "Will [the transition] get as much air as the war itself?" asked NBC News VP Bill Wheatley, speaking to a Radio-TV News Directors Association panel in Las Vegas. "Probably not. That's the nature of journalism. But it will get airtime."

CNN has had a bureau in Baghdad for 12 years but was booted last month by the Iraqi government. The network's chief of newsgathering Eason Jordan said it will be reopened and bolstered. Responding to questions from the Poynter Institute's Jill Geisler, Jordan noted that CNN's international networks take a different perspective from its domestic ones in war coverage. Coverage on the international nets, he said, reflects much more the view of nations that don't favor the U.S. policy.

Panelist Will Wright, head of BET News, also said that his network made sure to give voice to "Moslem-Americans and Arab-Americans" and "included opinions from ministers to Imams." But, he added, "it would not be fair to say that our newscasts represent a negative view of the war" but rather one with more contrasting viewpoints.

Dueling Studies

A study commissioned by the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation and unveiled last week concluded that "local television is the major source of news for the American public and more than two-thirds of those surveyed rate local TV news as good or excellent. More than half those polled, though, wanted to know more about the process of story selection.

The public isn't channel-surfing as much as many news directors think; nearly half of viewers responding said they don't change the channel at all during local news. The survey was done for RTNDF by Ball State University Professor Bob Papper.

Only last week, however, a Los Angeles Times
poll showed that more than two-thirds of respondents were relying on the three major cable news networks for their news about the war in Iraq. According to the newspaper, 23% cited local TV news, and 18% cited the three broadcast networks.

Knight Funds High School Program

The Radio and Television News Directors Foundation received a big cash infusion from another foundation to fund journalism programs and First Amendment education in high schools. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has given it $2.5 million for a three-year effort, the High School Electronic Journalism Project. The project will fund 100 new high school journalism programs and 75 school-newsroom partnerships and will also sponsor regional workshops. It is the biggest grant in foundation history.

Classy Cosby

One TV legend paid tribute to another during the entertainment following the NAB/RTNDA's kickoff dinner Sunday night in Las Vegas. Bill Cosby prefaced his show by telling the audience that a good friend had died recently. In tribute to Fred Rogers, TV's famed "Mr. Rogers," Cosby left the stage with a spotlight on an empty chair, which, he said, stood not only for Rogers but also for the men and women serving in the Persian Gulf and in the hopes of "their return, vertically."

Schieffer Warns Against Shortcuts

CBS News icon Bob Schieffer warned young journalists last week against moving from reporting to the anchor desk too soon. Accepting the RTNDA's highest honor, the Paul White Award, the longtime broadcast journalist and Face the Nation host told the many students and fledgling journalists at the awards banquet that, often, the most talented young broadcasters become reporters and then move up the ranks, continuing to anchor until "you have someone who is very good at reading a Teleprompter but has never really covered a story. Talented broadcasters deserve better than that. It's a shortcut," he said, "but don't do it. The point of journalism is not getting on television. It's getting on and telling stories."