Behind the excitement surrounding the Brian-Katie-Charlie smackdown — or, if you prefer, the reinvigorated competition among three heavyweight newsgathering organizations — lie fundamental questions about the direction of the nightly newscasts, which together attract some 27 million viewers, depending on the night and the season. Does the nightly news need to be reshaped? Is a makeover practical, given the constraints in time and structure? Is it smart, given the loyalties, expectations and habits of the sizeable audience that remains?
Or would the networks be better served by having their new anchors — Brian Williams, 47, in NBC's anchor chair since December 2004; [Charlie] Gibson, 63, in ABC's since May; and [Katie] Couric, 49, debuting in CBS' in September — lend their fresh personalities to proven programs and reserving bold innovations for news delivery via the Web, cell phones, iPods and as yet unimagined wireless devices?
This "is a period of enormous innovation, but it's going to be innovation in delivery rather than content," says television analyst Andrew Tyndall, who publishes the Tyndall Report, a weekly newsletter monitoring broadcast TV news. "It would be an inappropriate use of their resources to spend all their time reinventing the 'CBS Evening News,' when they really should be spending all their time reinventing how news gets delivered to people in different ways."