CBS, the home of the most celebrated news division in broadcasting, has been in discussions with Time Warner about a deal to outsource some of its news-gathering operations to CNN, two executives briefed on the matter said Monday.
Over the last decade, CNN has held intermittent talks with both ABC News and CBS News about various joint ventures. But during the last several months, talks with CBS have been revived and lately intensified, according to the executives who asked for anonymity because of the confidential nature of the negotiations.
Broadly speaking, the executives described conversations about reducing CBS’s news-gathering capacity while keeping its frontline personalities, like Katie Couric, the CBS Evening News anchor, and paying a fee to CNN to buy the cable network’s news feeds.
Another possibility, these people said, would be for CBS to keep its correspondents in certain regions but pair them with CNN crews.
This story was accompanied by a picture of a weepy Katie Couric. Ouch.
CBS is denying the report, but what exactly would be wrong with the arrangement? Like most broadcast TV news, CBS’s operation is more a delivery apparatus than a reporting apparatus. When was the last time the CBS Evening News broke a major story? No, I mean one that was true. Broadcast television isn’t really set up to do the sort of in-depth work that print is good for, and it’s less effective than the Internet for you-need-to-know-this-now news. Half the time, TV guys are reading the AP afternoon digest. Outsourcing the reporting to CNN might be an improvement. Fox News might be even better.
I’ve always thought that the broadcast networks would be better off ditching the high-dollar on-air talent, paying a couple of dinner-theater-caliber pretty faces to read the news, and putting those saved millions into reporting. You don’t need to be savvy to read the news; you just need to know how to read. A pleasing face and a sonorous voice would be a bonus. The rest of the world calls them “newsreaders,” but our networks like to pretend that they’re salty reporters pulled from the ranks of the ink-stained wretches. Having celebrated personalities as anchors isn’t just an unprofitable investment; there’s plenty of evidence that they’re more trouble than they’re worth.