Back in 1997, I did TV for CBS News, when The Computer Answer Guy was a talking head for their overnight national program Up To The Minute. In the spirit of nostalgia, here I am, with then-anchor Nanette Hansen:
Here’s the story, and why I’m telling it now: UTTM was produced and ran in the 2AM to 6AM time slot, because it was cheap. Or at least that’s what the production staff told me when I was there. Literally, the news broadcast that a couple of dozen people turned out every night cost less to produce than it would have for CBS to license and run old episodes of Gunsmoke.
And if you watched carefully, you might have noticed that UTTM from 2 AM to 4 AM was identical to UTTM from 4AM to 6AM. Same script, run twice? Nope. Same program run twice. An anchor, a technician and a producer stayed all night just in case news broke during the second running, but just as UTTM was a money saver for CBS News, 4AM to 6AM was a money saver for UTTM.
And now, it gets . . . worse.
ABC News is laying off 25% of its workforce. I’m not going to rail against this, or talk about how “news just isn’t what it used to be”. Frankly, ABC’s choice makes sense, and the second statement is something you already knew. What I find fascinating is that it took this long.
For years, young people (yes, I just lumped a whole generation or three into one group . . . sorry) have been getting their news watching The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Sometimes I’m relieved that they at least watch that much news coverage, in spite of Mr. Stewart’s steadfast position that he’s really a comedian, not a newscaster. I know people who get their technology and business news right here at Answer Guy Central, and I thank you for the trust you’re vesting in us if you’re one of them.
The point is that news—yes, even the news—is undergoing business change, and the change goes on. And while part of it is about the “CNN phenomenon” of having too many hours to fill and so needing to water down the facts with commentary, the real issue is that sometimes people just don’t need you the way you want them to.
And yes, Big Media, that even applies to you.