Monday, August 15, 2005

5,500 CBC workers face lockout, union says

This looks bad.

CBC News Online reports that CBC is locking out 5,500 staff, including "journalists, producers, technicians and other support staff across most of the country. (Employees in Quebec and in Moncton, N.B., belong to a different union and will continue to work.)"

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peter Jennings dead at 67

ABC News anchor Peter Jennings has died of cancer at 67.

I don't have much to add to this other than that with Jennings' death, it feels like the end of an era. The last -- and arguably the best -- of a generation of network news anchors is gone, and while his contemporaries are still around, they and the world have moved on from the days when the 6:30 p.m. newscast was essential viewing.

Today's 24-hour news cycle, round-the-clock news networks, and -- more importantly -- the Internet have eroded the central role network news anchors and the nightly newscast once played, as authoritative guides shepherding us along while we gazed through a window to the world.

When a major event occurred, you could be sure that the first place to turn was network news, where you could find your trusted anchor breaking in on regularly scheduled programming to explain the events as they unfolded.

You need only look at recorded footage of Walter Cronkite reading a bulletin that John F. Kennedy had been declared dead to get a sense of the enormous responsibility anchors once shouldered.

Now, journalists can be fired for such things. One hopes for better.

In most cases, perhaps the diminished role of the anchor is best. Today, when a major event occurs, the first place to go for more information is the Internet, and ordinary citizens will often have information online before the mainstream media. It may lack context or even reliability -- which is what anchors like Jennings and Cronkite were great at providing. In an interview with CNN's Larry King Live on Sept. 8, 2003, Jennings summed up the Internet's journalistic potential and peril, saying, "I love the Internet -- but I sometimes think I may be talking to a goat."

But taken with other sources, the Internet gets the information across by turning the news consumer into an active participant in the process, engaging them both as an audience and a producer, which is a good thing.

Even so, Jennings' death is a blow to good journalism. He was a journalist's journalist in an age when news divisions are run by entertainment executives who hire political flacks, actors and comedians as anchors to read the news instead of report it, and news is seen as just another product to amuse an audience, another package in which to sell soap.

With Jennings' death, we may truly have seen the last of a generation.

FOOTNOTE: This is clearly a technical error, but an embarrassing one for CBC and/or Google: When I checked Google News for information on Jennings' death, one of the links led to a page whose main content was simply "junk-please delete". Not the best thing to drive traffic to when the subject is someone's death.