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Friday, November 6, 2009

GOOD NIGHT CHET

For over 40 years I have been a loyal follower of NBC news. It began in the 1960's with the Huntley-Brinkley report which I still consider the preeminent newscast of all time, better than both Walter Cronkite (CBS) and Howard K. Smith (ABC), although I had a lot of respect for Smith as a no-nonsense newsman. Chet Huntley reported from New York and his delivery was both authoritative and unbiased. David Brinkley reported from Washington, DC and possessed a slight yet charming North Carolina accent. He would also deliver quips that were both humorous and thought-provoking. The correspondents on the show followed Huntley-Brinkley's lead and helped turn the show into the most credible and trustworthy news program of the day.

Huntley retired in 1970 to his beloved Montana, leaving Nightly News in the capable hands of Frank McGee, John Chancellor, and Brinkley. When McGee passed away prematurely due to cancer, the mantel fell to Chancellor with Brinkley offering commentary. Chancellor did a capable job until his retirement in the early 1980's and Brinkley moved on to other projects. It was during this period that NBC News underwent a transformation as executives worried about ratings, and a new generation of news people began to emerge, which lead to Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams. Similar changes were also being enacted by CBS and ABC at this time, probably due to the advent of 24/7 news reporting as introduced by Ted Turner's CNN. Whereas news had once been the exclusive domain of the networks, cable news turned it into a whole new ball game. Executives became obsessed with ratings and started changing the format and content of network news, and in my opinion, not for the better.

I should mention that morning news programs also started to change at this same time. Barbara Walters, Hugh Downs, and Frank Blair anchored a Today Show in the 1960's with impeccable trust, but as they eventually moved on to other projects, their replacements lacked their authority and credibility.

Then along comes Fox News in the 1990's which, to me as a loyal NBC News viewer, was meaningless. I rarely watched it, but over the years I started to hear my friends and relatives mention they were watching Fox as they preferred its format and content. Again, as a loyal NBC News viewer, I stayed the course. Then, during this decade, I started to hear the "Big Three" snipe at Fox News, which began to pique my curiosity about the upstart. It was also at this time when I lost confidence in NBC's ability to report news fairly. All of the news seemed slanted towards a political ideology. To me, it was no longer fair and balanced and, as such, they lost my trust and pushed me into the arms of Fox News which I now watch with regularity.

It is a sad day for journalism when we begin to think of television news as organs of a political party. Both Huntley and Brinkley would be spinning in their graves if they could see the state of network news today. I took great comfort in how they reported the news. I trusted and respected them. If they had something to say, I listened, and I miss this generation of newscasters greatly. I no longer trust network news, least of all NBC, not only have they lost credibility with me, I am now suspicious of the news they report. As a long time NBC viewer, this saddens me.

"Good night Chet. Good night David. And goodbye to NBC News."

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.