Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Dan Rather does it again

Dan Rather is getting in trouble for comments he made (indirectly) about his CBS news replacement, Katie Couric.

From our AP story today:

While referring to Couric as a “nice person,” Rather said “the mistake was to try to bring the 'Today' show ethos to the 'Evening News,' and to dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience.”

CBS CEO Les Moonves decried the remarks as “sexist” and said he was surprised at the amount of flack Couric was drawing from critics, even as she struggles for ratings.

I have some sympathy for Dan because he's put his finger on something that news outlets struggle with every day. We even fight it here at Lubbock Online, struggling to draw a line between what people say they want versus what they actually want.

Our current poll question shows an overwhelming majority of Lubbock Online readers do not feel sorry for Paris Hilton. I'm sure a solid majority would say they're tired of hearing about her. I suspect an equally solid majority would say they never want to hear about her again.

Ask any typical group of news consumers what they want to read about and they'll list all the life-affirming highbrow stuff you'd expect. They want to read about local crime news and important decisions from the City Council. They'll ask the paper to steer away from sensationalism and celebrity gossip.

But then, when it comes time to measure what people actually read, Paris Hilton will be #1 on our top ten list again.

Dan Rather is facing a similar problem. All over the country, news outlets have to balance consumer demand with their professional reputations. Fox News beat CNN by openly declaring their patriotism, offering more opinion shows, and accusing their competitors of ideological bias.

Tabloid publications and celebrity magazines crowd out hard news, and ideological blogs chip away at the foundations of objective journalism.

It's a real problem for news organizations — in broadcast, print and online — learning to give people what they want, without compromising the integrity that brought them to us in the first place.

There are no easy answers here, and CBS won't be the last news organization to get it wrong.

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Written by Michael B. Duff

June 12, 2007 at 15:09

Posted in Politics

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