The news media, chastened by its embarrassing misreading of the electorate in November, will drastically change the way it does business after a couple of months of soul searching. Gone will be the crossfire of partisan talking points, in favor of substantive journalism. Out the window are data crunching and phantom polls, kicked out by boots-on-the-ground reporting. Also: This is the year I’m gonna lose 20 pounds and finally try a triathlon.
Some New Year’s resolutions don’t make it past January.
Cable news could use its 2016 windfall to dig deep on the finer points of health care overhaul, infrastructure projects and Trump’s cabinet appointments. But why would it, when dissecting his latest tweet or Thank You tour speech is pure catnip for viewers?
Russia’s Vladimir Putin isn’t the only one to benefit from Trump’s coronation—it’s a home run for every stakeholder in a news organization. News analyst Andrew Tyndall says there’s little incentive for cable news to change its ways. “In terms of its business model, its prominence, CNN couldn’t have dreamed of a better 2016,” he says.
Pundits see more in-depth work on the broadcast news side, yet every news org will-have its challenges getting (and retaining) access to President Trump. He’s a media star like no other White House denizen, with a disdain for the news media like no other. He carries grudges by the bushel-full. John Roberts, chief White House correspondent at Fox News Channel, says he enjoys “very good” contacts in the Trump camp, but acknowledges that may not be the norm for working journalists. “I don’t think myself or anyone at Fox News Channel will have a problem, but it may be different for others,” he says.
Reporters will have to consider the ramifications of resolute White House reporting—one of the keystones of our democracy. “Reporters may be fearful of taking a critical line,” says Jessica Yellin, former CNN chief White House correspondent. “They may think their managers want access-more than they want aggressive reporting.”
Top of the Morning
Morning news continues to be a massive profit center for the broadcast networks. CBS This Morning marks its five-year anniversary this week. High marks to CBS News for building a program that reflects the DNA of 60 Minutes and CBS Evening News, but the real race remains between NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America. A (pyrrhic) victory may be in the offing for NBC.
“Today is inching and inching and inching closer,” says Tyndall. “They’re losing audience less than GMA is.”
On CBS, Jane Pauleystarts her first year as host of CBS Sunday Morning, following a promising few months after succeeding Charles Osgood.
Evening news is old, but not yet dead. Sure, the ads—pharmaceuticals for your heart, your bones, your various aches and pains—are custom-made for me after I do that triathlon. But the programs have actually been adding a small number of viewers in recent years, and stand at around 24 million collectively among the Big Three, according to Pew Research. Even flat viewership in 2017 would be a win in this age of news fragmentation.
‘More’ for Megyn
If any journalist came out of 2016 looking better than they did in 2015, it may be Megyn Kelly of Fox News. Kelly stood her ground against a bullying Trump, did the same with Roger Ailes, and even published a book, aptly titled Settle For More. Will she stay or will she go? Smart money is on her staying.
Perhaps it’s overly optimistic to think anything will actually change in the news business after the hard lessons learned. Maybe, just maybe, the networks dedicate more resources to the field so as to not be humiliated in the midterm elections. There’s a real hunger, perhaps more than ever, for journos doing crack investigative work, for those who unflinchingly hold leaders’ feet to the fire.
Speaking at B&C’s Diversity Discussion last month, Noticiero Univision anchor MariaElena Salinas said, “I think our job now is more important than ever.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.