Timing is everything. Ask Howard Kurtz.
When the respected Washington Post media reporter began researching his new book two years ago on the Big 3 evening newscasts, he had no idea he would hit the mother lode.
“When you do one of these real-time narratives, it’s really a roll of the dice,” he says. “If it’s a boring year, you’re stuck making the most of it. Once I got started, I found myself chronicling an amazing period of upheaval.”
The result, Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War, hits the stands tomorrow. This is his first interview for the book.
Kurtz’ fifth tome, Reality Show follows the behind-the-scenes drama of Bob Woodruff-Elizabeth Vargas-Charlie Gibson at ABC and Bob Schieffer-Katie Couric at CBS.
Kurtz, also host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, says he was given “the kind of access I’ve never had in my entire career.” He interviewed 125 people, including “all the major players.” (He wonâ€™t name names, of course.)
“I made the same pitch to everybody: ‘This is a serious, substantive book that will examine, in a fair-minded way, what you do and how you do it,â€™â€ Kurtz says.
One of his most surprising discoveries was the degree to which newscasts, “consciously or otherwise,” target older viewers, particularly female, he says.
“It’s almost to the point where they don’t seem terribly concerned that they’re driving younger viewers away.”
Still, Kurtz says he’s not ready to write their obit.
Despite the 24/7 internet, “NBC, ABC and CBS still perform valuable functions in making sense of this chaotic world for busy viewers.”
“I was impressed by how good they are at their mission, but also came away believing they have to…take more chances to appeal to people under 50 if they are to survive.”