Commentary

Basking In The Rocket's Red Glare

Apparently the networks learned nothing from Bob Woodruff nearly getting killed in Iraq. No sooner had Hezbollah done something that they will certainly live to regret (words to live by: never piss off Ray Lewis, the Mafia, or the Israeli army) than everyone, with the exception of CBS, fitted their news anchors with spiffy flak jackets and shipped them off to the war zone.

With the networks investing millions in the anchors themselves and millions more in promoting their broadcasts as better than the next guy's (not to mention medical costs if another newsreader gets the Woodruff treatment from the combatants), you'd think the anchors would be the last folks the networks would put in harm's way. News directors claim that having their stars huddled on a balcony overlooking explosions in the background somehow "focuses" the newscast on that particular story. But who knows how many people tune in just to see if Charles Gibson or Brian Williams or Soledad O'Brien get Katyusha-ed on live TV?

Personally, I'd rather hear from the local bureau chief, who really knows the score and has to run from spot to spot to keep from making the daily body count. He's the guy who pries open the local sources and provides most of the better insider information on what is happening behind the bombs and rockets.

I can't help but feel the anchors leech off the hard work of the ink-stained wretches in the trenches, and their presence takes the spotlight off the reporters who have busted their asses for years to develop reliable sources. Kind of reminds me of the definition of editorial writers: the ones who come down out of the hills after the battle and shoot the wounded.

For some reason (perhaps it was Dan Rather's idiotic reporting from hurricane sites), anchors somehow feel that being on the scene of a major news story gives them street cred they wouldn't get under the studio lights in New York. Is it supposed to humanize multimillion-dollar newsreaders to have them ask a disaster victim, "How are you feeling?" Not for me. I just sit and try to imagine the logistical cost of transporting Brian or Charles or Anderson and their entourages 5,000 miles to the breaking news--and what they'll do if the "scud sirens" go off in mid-sentence.

Poor CBS. Since it didn't drop-ship the aging Bob Schieffer into this week's hot spot, it will take an unlimited amount of crap from the other networks, news consultants and j-school professors who have little else to do during the summer. That is, until another Bob Woodruff happens--and suddenly, CBS will have made the prudent decision.

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