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More “News War” Tonight

From the release:

    Correspondent Lowell Bergman continues his look at the news business in Part III of “News War” this Tuesday night. Bergman and producer Stephen Talbot are asking a question that is on the minds of many of us in the business: what’s happening to the news? And there is no better place to start looking than the program voted “Best News” program three years ago by the Television Critics Association – “The Daily Show.” The choice of the popular comedy show, which regularly skewers the manners and style of network and cable news, says a lot about the traditional network and cable news broadcasters.

    Bergman explores the fate of network news with Ted Koppel, Dan Rather and the head of ABC News, David Westin. Westin and Bergman have a back and forth about whether some of the softer pieces found on the network’s magazine programs really can be called news. But if entertainment values appear to be winning over journalistic values, this is just one challenge for broadcast news chiefs. Jeff Fager, the executive producer of “60 Minutes” knows that his core audience is 55 and older. To reach a younger crowd he is letting Yahoo stream some of “60 Minutes’” lighter features in bite-size chunks, along with outtakes not seen in the broadcast. Yahoo and Google now play an increasingly important role in the dissemination of news and we explore in our program how each has taken a different approach in their news efforts.

    As traditional news providers increase their online efforts, they find they’re only a click away from a swarm of bloggers and a new generation of ‘citizen journalists.’ Will these new voices be capable of delivering original reporting instead of mainly reprocessing the stuff that other people already have dug out? Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, is one of many who raise that question. He has his doubts. There is a lively debate on this point with Jeff Jarvis, one of the champions of the blogosphere’s ability to provide useful information and real reporting.

    In the last half of “What’s Happening to the News” we shift our attention to the most significant challenge to journalism today: the fate of the nation’s major newspapers. The not-so-secret secret of the news business is that much of what is online and even much of what is seen on television and cable depends, as former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll notes, “on the people who are going out and knocking on doors and rummaging through records and covering events.” What economic model will support this basic reporting function in the future? The symbolic struggle for the future of American journalism is told in the story you may have noticed in the weekly headlines recounting the ups and downs of the Los Angeles Times. The paper’s current owners are trying to sell the paper, along with their other media properties. We tell this story from the inside.

    Bergman also chronicles the larger economic story of the enormous financial pressure on many newspapers – how, for example, the popular Internet site ‘craigslist’ has taken much of the classified ad business away from them. In the battle for the future of newspapers, the trump card seems to rest with Wall Street. If shareholders cannot be satisfied and if moguls don’t come to the rescue, who will pay for quality news on which we depend?

    If you cannot view “News War – What’s Happening to the News” this Tuesday, you can watch it on our Web site, where you also can access dozens of extended interviews and background articles. And, express your opinion about this program at http://www.pbs.org/frontline/newswar/

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