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PBS Announces Worldfocus, What about National Focus?

PBS takes a big step forward with Worldfocus, which according to the About page:

… responds to the mainstream media’s diminished coverage of international news. All the major networks have closed foreign bureaus and cut resources for international news coverage, which amounted to just 8 percent of all American news coverage last year.

There is no argument it is needed, but I have been telling anyone who will listen in PBS that the same void is present for a national TV news. Here is part of my argument:

  • National news on the networks ABC, CBS, NBC still is about storytelling reporting, but averages 18.6 minutes of news each night. (State of News Media 2008)
  • All three networks present almost the same news each night (State of News Media 2008)
  • Network TV news: “Coverage of government … shrank markedly, as it did on other media sectors, to just 5% of the stories on the nightly newscasts, down from 27% in 2004.” (State of News Media 2008)
  • “…cable news has moved toward commentary, with a focus on a narrower range of topics often of a controversial nature, with a dose of tabloid crime and scandal mixed in…” (State of News Media 2008)
  • Cable TV: the “formula in 2007 was a combination of controversial opinion, a dose of tabloid-tinged crime and celebrity, edgy personalities, and, during the daytime, a focus on the immediate.” (State of News Media 2008)

In other words, all that is left of well reported national TV journalism is about 19 minutes day on the three networks, which basically cover the same topics each day.

I also argue PBS can fill the void, just as NPR filled the radio news void:

PBS has the national fundraising apparatus, the video expertise and the physical infrastructure. New technologies have lowered the costs. What I am trying to find out is if PBS has the will.

Are people interested in real TV news? Joel Kramer, former Minneapolis Star Tribune publisher  who started MinnPost, the online newspaper in Minnesota, based on research is betting that about 15 percent of the adult population are news junkies. But the audience could be greater, after all more than 60 million people tuned into the Joe Biden, Sarah Palin Vice Presidential debate last week. PBS could not be a player in the past because of the high cost of producing TV news, but the times have changed:

Thanks to low costs and new technologies, high TV news costs are no longer a barrier. Just as NPR’s professionals carry everything they need in a backpack and produce whole news packages by themselves with just their computers, now TV reporters can do the same at about the same cost. Using these tools, would put PBS in front of the digital revolution.

So if you have some influence at PBS, drop me a note, I will share my full proposal and we can start to make things happen.

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