Once upon a time CBS was called the Tiffany network. A complimentary label representing the quality of its reporting and reputation. And when it comes to news brands, it's difficult to trump the network which lays claim to Edward Murrow and Walter Cronkite. CBS' fearless reporting brought to an end the political reign of terror of Joe McCarthy and was largely responsible for turning the tide of public opinion on the Vietnam war.
In today's edition of the New York Times it's reported that CBS is in talks to outsource the bulk of its reporting to CNN, a Time Warner Company. While CNN has carved out a respected news reputation of its own, it's difficult to see this move by CBS as anything less than a capitulation of a half century old legacy.
Commentators will be quick to point out the lack of rating success enjoyed by CBS evening news anchor Katie Couric as the reason for CBS' move should the NYT report prove true. But the possibility of CBS' abandonment of its news division as a core product points out a deeper problem: traditional media is no longer the sole gatekeeper for what we used to call hard news.
Beginning with the rise of cable television and continuing through today's hottest online news outlets such as the Drudge Report and The Huffington Post, news has increasingly become customized, personal and immediate. Traditional newscasts, whether in the form of the big three networks nightly news blocks or on the front page of your local newspaper, no longer meet the expectations of modern consumers. The CBS Nightly News and its counterparts on NBC and ABC have become empty cathedrals. The gilded landmarks of an earlier age.
In this age of conversation news, like everything else, has become a dialogue and can no longer be confined to thirty- and sixty-minute blocks neatly packaged and transmitted into the living room of the no-longer nuclear family. News is now a continuous cycle and the logistics of forcing the presentation of traditional media to it are financially prohibitive.
So what's next?
The close of the traditional media era happens to coincide with the rise of a new one: that of the professional online journalist. As we discussed a couple of days ago with Tish Grier, many reporters have taken to blogging as a writing style and do it fairly well, as Mark Glaser of MediaShift writes here.
Others have evolved to a journalistic style over time, like The Huffington Post, which is gaining a lot of respect from readers. Gawker is a diamond in the rough - a lot of potential shining through. Nick Denton, the CEO of Gawker Media, another major blogging chain, has also indicated that his properties will begin a transition to originating rather than simply commenting on breaking news.
While CBS may be hawking its Tiffany and selling its family jewels for scrap, just as in the case with real jewelry, new creations will be forged from the old. And from the first age of golden media will come a second in some new creative and dazzling form.
[image courtesy of Tiffany's, create your own stack here]