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News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment and the Bottom-Line Business of Broadcast News

ISBN: 978-0-7879-7565-4
270 pages
May 2004, Jossey-Bass
News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment and the Bottom-Line Business of Broadcast News (0787975656) cover image
While talking heads debate the media's alleged conservative or liberal bias, award-winning journalist Bonnie Anderson knows that the problem with television news isn't about the Left versus the Right--it's all about the money. From illegal hiring practices to ethnocentric coverage to political cheerleading, News Flash exposes how American broadcast conglomerates' pursuit of the almighty dollar consistently trumps the need for fair and objective reporting. Along the way to the bottomline, the proud tradition of American television journalism has given way to an entertainment-driven industry that's losing credibility and viewers by the day.

As someone who has worked as both a broadcast reporter and a network executive, Anderson details how the networks have been co-opted by bottom-line thinking that places more value on a telegenic face than on substantive reporting. Network executives—the real power in broadcast journalism—are increasingly employing tactics and strategies from the entertainment industry. They "cast" reporters based on their ability to "project credibility," value youth over training and experience, and often greenlight coverage only if they can be assured that it will appeal to advertiser-friendly demographics.

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Preface ix

Acknowledgments xix

1 The Rise of the Corporate News Networks 1

2 What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You 25

3 This Is Good Business? 41

4 The Good 73

5 The Bad 95

6 And the Ugly 115

7 All Profits, All the Time 149

8 We Report, We Decide 187

9 Strange Bedfellows 201

Conclusion: Rx for TV Journalism 225

Notes 237

The Author 249

Name Index 251

Subject Index 257

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Bonnie M. Anderson is a twenty-seven-year news veteran who has won seven Emmy Awards and been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She began her career as a print reporter for the Miami Herald, the Miami News, and Gannett Newspapers, and spent ten years at NBC News and close to ten at CNN. Anderson currently provides media training for executives, journalists, and other professionals.
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"Anderson documents clearly and convincingly, in a professional's crisp and clear voice, the sad slide of television news at the hands of bureaucrats who think of news only in terms of profits and ratings, who value good looks and smooth delivery over truth. If television news is to play the vital role in democracy that it should, journalists, producers and executives must heed Ms. Anderson's call for a return to the ethics and high principles of television journalism."
--Terry Anderson, former Associated Press Middle East bureau chief; former U.S. hostage in Lebanon, and author, Den of Lions

"This is a book told by a journalistic idealist that is full of sound and fury, signifying something truly important. To understand why journalism too often falls short, and why this failure is costly, read this searing book"
--Ken Auletta, media critic, New Yorker magazine; author, Backstory: Inside the Business of News

News Flash is more frightening than a Stephen King novel. It meticulously chronicles how ou r nation’s television news has morphed into brazen show biz, how good journalism fell victim to good looks, how serving public interest gave way to placating corporate greed. This is a riveting account by a veteran television reporter and network executive who watched it all happen from the inside. Bonnie Anderson exposes the shameful way that network executives routinely give token attention to ethnic, racial and gender diversity yet quietly keep white males in virtual control of the key jobs in television news. All the while, our evening news programs blissfully--and arrogantly¾ignore the information needs of a rapidly changing America.”
--Juan Gonzalez, columnist, New York Daily News; president, The National Association of Hispanic Journalists

“My grandmother always said, ‘When you know better, you ought to do better.’ In News Flash, Bonnie Anderson shows us a better way. Thanks, Bonnie.”
--Tavis Smiley, author and PBS and NPR talk show host

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