Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

The Best 20 Minutes of News on TV

Getting one’s news from television may seem like an antiquated idea: according to The Pew Rearch Center, just about a third of people younger than 30 are getting any of their news from TV.  This is in stark contrast to the days of Brokaw, Jennings and Rather, when well over half of American’s watched news on television.  My old roommate Scott and I used to say to each other at 5:30 each evening, “Time for Brokaw?” and tune in to NBC.  How many people today can even name the three network news anchors?  Can you?  (full disclosure: I couldn’t.  I forgot that Diane Sawyer is still doing ABC News).  And if you do tune into the evening news, will you walk away with more information on prescription drug ads than you will actual news?

Despite the fall of television journalism, there are twenty minutes that I find well worth my time: the first segment of CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell.

Back in the day, CBS was the network to shy away from the fluff that NBC and ABC embraced so enthusiastically.  Ratings suffered, and CBS news, both evening and morning, was relegated to third place for a long time.  Perhaps it is in this spirit – the spirit of Dan Rather, who has accused today's reporters of needing a spine transplant – that CBS’s morning news has reinvented itself so effectively in the last year.  After years of trying to compete with NBC and ABC, and after a long game of anchor musical chairs – remember names like Chris Wragge, Jeff Glor and Julie Chen? – CBS has finally settled on a lineup of Rose and O’Donnell. and interestingly, have as part of their mission, decided to focus on – get this – actual news.  No more endless banter between anchors.  No more meteorologists hamming it up with cheering fans on the street.  No more cooking segments. Just news.

It’s working.

True, CBS This Morning still ranks third among the three major morning news programs, but it is the only one that’s growing.  For a good article on the show and the philosophy of executive producer Chris Licht, click here.

My son and I have gotten into the habit of tuning into the first twenty minutes of CBS This Morning. No commercials.  No lengthy interviews with talking heads.  Just a quick summary of the seven or eight most important news items of the day, often with the benefit of CBS’s trump card, John Miller, who has to be among the most intriguing reporters on television.  When there are news stories regarding law enforcement, as there have been lately, he alone makes it worth tuning in.  Charlie Rose at times shows his age (71), but more often than not does the job he's known for: cutting to the chase by asking pointed questions.  Nora O’Donnell does something few other anchors have the guts to do: re-ask a question after it isn’t answered the first time around.  Jim Lehrer, take note.

So now, after my son and I get our news and weather (with no Al Roker!), we have breakfast and discuss the news items of the day.

Not a bad way to spend the morning.

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved