For more than a decade, the networks have been pruning back what were once the world’s most well-funded news organisations. But the cuts at ABC are of a different magnitude. They either mean that ABC is, finally, exiting the news business, or that the entire basis of news programming has changed.
Of course, the time when all networks had correspondents on the ground in this or that foreign capital or hot spot is long passed. Part of yesterday’s cut is an acknowledgment—yet another acknowledgment—of this. Many of those who will leave the news division are part of a vestigial news apparatus that has continued to support, or pretend to support, an international news operation. Like all networks, ABC had found that it can profitably have personalities like Diane Sawyer or George Stephanopoulos or Barbara Walters discuss the news on air without having people gather it. The work behind the camera, it turns out, really doesn’t provide all that much value to viewers and advertisers.
“I frankly don’t think it will be particularly noticeable for viewers,” said ABC News’ long-time president, David Westin, in as clear an admission as you can make that the artifice needs no reality.
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