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Friday, June 24, 2005

Two Cheers for NBC's Brian Williams, First Network News Anchor to Blog; Kudos for MSNBC, Too

Brian Williams , NBC's evening news anchor, has a blog. That is news and not only because he is the first of the major network anchors to take the plunge, but because it could open the door for a lot of other folks in broadcast journalism to do the same thing.

Once these people experience for themselves the power of news as a conversation and the wisdom of a crowd of news producers and consumers, great change in the way the networks cover the news will surely result.

The first real test of Williams and his The Daily Nightly blog will be determining the limits of his topics. Yesterday's lead post focused on the afternoon news meeting and the fact that journalists in such meetings often include "boisterous and vigorous exchanges" about what ought to be the lede.

Having gone through a few such boisterous meetings myself over the years, I am encouraged that Williams at least broached the possibility of talking about how he and his colleagues arrive at such decisions. Transparency is just as healthy for the newsroom as it is for government.

The test will come, however, the first time he goes into detail about the process of sorting out the day's news touts - that is, deciding in the morning what stories should be covered and which shouldn't. Folks associated with the stories that get left out will have something to say and it likely won't be positive.

Newsroom advocates for those stories won't be happy, either, and that will complicate the internal jostling that typifies every news organization. There will then be pressure on Williams to limit his blogging to "safe" topics. Which, of course, will render The Daily Nightly largely irrelevant.

There is another aspect of the Williams blog that bears comment. Glance over the list in the right column on The Daily Nightly and you will see a box with a list of 15 blogs associated with NBC and MSNBC news personalities and programs, plus GlennReynolds.com. MSNBC is getting an important leg up on its cable news competitors at CNN and Fox by emphasizing blogging in this manner.

Figuring out the best way of integrating blogging and traditional cable news operations is a task not yet completed, but MSNBC could well be laying the groundwork for a future surge past its competition in the ratings. Are you listening, Roger Ailes?

As Jeff Jarvis points out, by allowing Williams to start The Daily Nightly, NBC stole the march on CBS and its recently unveiled plans to turn its news operation inside out to by incorporating blogs, online access to the unbroadcasted portions of video interviews with news sources and coverage of daily news meetings.

Go here for an account of a recent presentation by new CBS Digital honcho Larry Kramer on the plan to bring the Tiffany Network's news-gathering into the 21st century. "You'll see us morph our news business into a web-centric one. We're doing what we call the cable bypass. The web is going to be our cable news network," Kramer told the American Press Institute's Media Center earlier this week.