The end of the network news era

I doubt there are many areas of agreement between Power Line and media critic Tom Rosenstiel. However, we do agree that, as Rosenstiel puts it in today’s Washington Post, we have reached “the end of the era of network news.” And we agree that this has occurred because “the networks abdicated their authority with the American people.”
Rosenstiel bases his conclusion on reasoning very different than ours. He relies mainly on the fact that the major networks chose not to provide meaningful coverage of the two political conventions this year. Thus, more people watched the Republican convention on Fox than on any other network. I suspect that Rosenstiel considers this an “abdication” in the sense that the major networks gave up their right to spin the Republican goings-on, leaving the work to non-liberals. By contrast, we believe that the networks are still spinning and that the end of the era is the result of (1) the depths to which they are willing to sink and (2) the emergence of rival sources of information to point out these depths.
Rosenstiel argues that network journalism was originally designed to create prestige, but that the networks no longer care much about the prestige of their news organizations. We are dubious of “golden age of television journalism” claims, and suspect that the networks believe their news organizations will retain prestige enough by continuing to tilt towards “right-thinking” candidates and causes. They underestimate both the “pajama” crowd and the American people.
The dictionary defines “abdication” as (1) renunciation or (2) failure to undertake or fulfill a duty. Rosenstiel thinks the major networks abdicated in the first sense; we think they abdicated in the second. And we believe that it is the MSM as a whole, not just the broadcast networks, that is abdicating.


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