Saturday, April 30, 2005

Clean Broadcasting Slate

Hugh Hewitt has invited bloggers to weigh in with ideas on what CBS should do "when it rolls out its new news product."

How much time do we have?

Okay, I'll try to be brief. Here are my first thoughts:

1. If you're going to stay with an anchor person format, make it a completely new CBS face if you want to be taken seriously.

2. Don't mute a big story simply because it doesn't meet your political litmus test (e.g., Oil for Food scandal, Christmas in Cambodia). The blogs will be all over it, and you'll lose more audience to the laptop.

3. Consider using a different anchor for each evening of the week, or for alternating weeks, until the audience can provide feedback on its preferences. Actively solicit viewer feedback via phone, e-mail or, better yet, a network blog. Which brings me to--

4. Maintain a network blog, making it interactive with your audience through comments and follow-up postings. Advertise the new CBS news program through the network blog and throughout the blogosphere. (Pop-up ads? They couldn't hurt.)

5. Assign one reporter to the sole purpose of reading and reporting on the major blogs, such as Instapundit, Power Line, Real Clear Politics, National Review Online, and of course Hugh Hewitt. This reporter would keep you apprised of the stories that are getting heavy coverage in the blogosphere and warn of impending "blog swarms" to avoid another blindsiding like Rathergate.

6. Smack in the middle of the broadcast, have a "Today's Blogs" segment. Your dedicated blog reporter will give a 3-4 minute overview of the stories that the blogging public is focusing on, matching them to your own coverage whenever possible. Viewers savvy in the new media would tune in just for this update. They may come early and catch your broadcast from the top, they may come later and stay for the conclusion. If you really score, they'll watch the whole show for the benefit of this segment. Whichever way it shakes out, you're pulling in viewership.

7. In the final segment, schedule a debate-type exchange on the day's main story with recognized names from the left and the right. I'm thinking of Hugh's "Smart Guys" segment, which presents two distinct perspectives on a given point. Mark Steyn vs. Josh Micah Marshall? It works for me. And it would work for a lot of viewers.

8. Finally, lighten up on the adverbs. They are the lightning rods of bias. No more words like "desperately" and "tragically" peppering the reports from Iraq. Just tell us straight--what actually happened? News consumers are very savvy. We can decide for ourselves what is desperate or tragic without a TV talking head explaining it to us.

That's enough from this amateur. Good luck, CBS. I look forward to reading your blog.