Network News- its peak and slow decline
Following World War II and the transition from radio news to television news, CBS maintained the highest levels with its Edward R. Murrow-staffed personalities- Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, Douglas Edwards, and then Walter Cronkite, who maintained the greatest "trust" of American viewers. CBS' decline is measured from Cronkite's retirement, and NBC with its Huntley-Brinkley team became the news leader in evening news time. For some years following the breakup of this team, the three networks paraded a number of personalities to anchor their evening news programs- Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw now are long-time news anchors. But, viewership is down. According to the latest (Feb 1, 2002) Nielsen ratings, NBC has a 13 share, ABC, a 10 share, CBS an 11 percent share of total viewers. For NBC, as an example that share translates into a raging of 8.3. Each ratings point represents 1,022,000 TV households (TVZapt2it, 2002, 1).
Even as more people (59%) get their news primarily from television, versus 23% from newspapers, "but the audience for network news isadropping. Fifteen years ago the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and ABC's World News Tonight together were watched in 41.2% of all American TV homes. Last season that combined audience sank to an all-time low of 26.1%" (Chidaya, 1996, 59). Why the decline? In general terms, it is the growth