A long time ago Walter Cronkite proposed CBS air an hour-long evening newscast. The most-trusted man in America believed thirty minutes just wasn’t enough time to get it all in. Americans were getting shortchanged. Walter believed Americans would watch an hour newscast.
The network didn’t listen to Walter. The broadcast networks still air half-hour newscasts and there still isn’t enough time and too much to cover.
But Americans watch hour-long newscasts.
If Walter were alive and still working today, he’d probably be anchoring at CNN, PBS, or perhaps Al Jazeera America.
These newscasts fill sixty minutes, or they’ll go longer if the news merits, and for the most part they stick to the facts and leave the opinions to their interviews. Occasionally, CNN goes overboard on its advocacy journalism and may slight some stories in favor of the sexy ones. If you like a lot of flashy graphics, orchestration, and in-your-face anchors, you might fall asleep watching the PBS NEWS HOUR. It’s straightforward with the facts, but it can be a bit dry at times with its low-key presentation. And don’t be surprised if PBS airs fewer stories in an hour than what a broadcast network would typically air in a half-hour. But the issues/stories PBS covers are done so thoroughly. (The analysis from experts alone can go for ten minutes or so. That’s an eternity at the networks.)
And then there’s Al Jazeera America. I know. When you tune in the first time you wait for the anchor to shake his or her fist and shout, “Death to America.” It’s nothing like that. The anchors include John Seigenthaler, formerly of NBC News, and Ray Suarez from PBS, and from what I’ve seen so far, the newscasts and other programming have been fact-based, in-depth, and have shown no bias or favoritism. And unlike Fox or CNBC, Al Jazeera doesn’t blame one U.S. political party for all what’s wrong in America and the world.
If you haven’t checked out these newscasts, give them a sample, and tell me what you think.