Talk about a harsh assessment: “2013 marks the year when ABC World News finally rejected the mission of presenting a serious newscast.” That’s the conclusion analyst Andrew Tyndall reached after reviewing what the networks covered on their evening newscasts last year. Sadly, the numbers bear him out.
ABC World News with Diane Sawyer spent the least amount of time on the biggest domestic and foreign policy stories of the year, while increasing its coverage of sports, celebrities and “true crime.” Says Tyndall, “ABC’s newscast is now certifiable Disneyfied.” At a minimum, it may finally be time to drop the word “World” from the ABC evening newscast’s title.
What of the others? The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley was arguably the most serious broadcast, spending more time on the federal budget, healthcare reform and the war in Syria than either ABC or NBC. CBS also devoted half as much time to winter weather as the other two, and more time to the debate over gun control.
NBC’s corporate connection to the Weather Channel (both are owned by Comcast) may partly explain that network’s fixation with the weather. Nightly News with Brian Williams gave more air time to tornado season and the Western forest fires than the other two networks, and trailed CBS only slightly in the amount of time devoted to winter weather.
NBC also gave far more air time to its DC bureau correspondents than the other two networks. The reporter who logged the most air time of all in 2013 was NBC’s Tom Costello. In second place was ABC’s David Muir. CBS’s Nancy Cordes, who covers Capitol Hill, was seventh on the list. The air time stat may appear to be nothing more than an ego stroke, but the truth is those numbers matter to the networks. I well remember my relief one year when I cracked the top 20. It meant job security–at least temporarily.