A Succession of Issues for Traditional Media

To blog or not to blog on vacation? That was my question… until now.

I can’t help it. I’m a news junkie. So, “unplugging” for me means only checking the headlines twice per day, especially when the wireless signal is good in an area where it used to be spotty. One story I saw this evening struck me as symbolic of the state of affairs in the news media today.

Tom Brokaw will be handling NBC’s “Meet the Press” for the time being. This is a microcosm of a situation that stands to plague all traditional media. There is no bench – there are no successors to the established players in the industry, particularly in political coverage.

I’m not suggesting that NBC should have foreseen Tim Russert’s untimely death. However, let’s take a look at the future of political reporting on television, for example. At the local level, corporate owners and consultants have convinced themselves that political news on TV is “boring.” So, other than election horseraces, results and the slip-up soundbite or scandal, they just don’t cover it. At the national level, they don’t cover political news as much as they talk about it – or scream about it – for hours on end. So, who is the heir apparent to the longest-running show in history and the best-known brand in the business? It’s no surprise that there isn’t one. The business hasn’t been grooming one.

Newspaper columns, radio interview shows and even the local anchor chairs in major markets are in the same boats today. In the future, it will ripple through all traditional media – as content changes, staffing cutbacks and lifestyle concerns drive talented people out of the business.

I’m a Tom Brokaw fan – I always have been. I look forward to seeing more of him on TV. But, I wish I could know that the next Tom Brokaw or Tim Russert was “out there” somewhere. The bad news is there is likely no such person.