Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Howard Rosenberg Asks Why LAT Has Inadequate TV Criticism

He won a Pulitzer Prize as the Los Angeles Times television critic, so no wonder Howard Rosenberg, now that he is retired, thinks the newspaper ought to continue to offer serious television criticism.

That was one of the points Rosenberg made when he addressed the Old Farts, the association of retired Times employees, on March 2, and it is a good point. It's just another sign of how the paper has sunk under Tribune ownership, despite the efforts of local editors. At one point, the Times did hire a successfor to Rosenberg, but she went off to the New York Times before she got into the saddle. The latest successful is just a shadow of Rosenberg, offering little of what he did.

Now, it seems, major television articles in the Times' Calendar Section often come under a Special to the Times byline, indicating that freelancers are being hired occasionally to give the biggest newspaper in one of the world's biggest television centers a veneer of television coverage and criticism. No wonder that Rosenberg, and many of the rest of us, wonder what's going on.

Just last Sunday, March 6, Ned Martel, not a Times staff writer, was given space beginning on Page 1 of Calendar to interiew Jonathan Klein, latest president at CNN, to discuss a favorite Times topic: how CNN can try to overtake Fox News, its rival, which the Times, with its liberal slant, hates.

There is no network the Times Calendar section loves more than CNN, but this article fell short in making its case, because the nightly news anchors so enthusiastically discussed by their new boss often fall short of the viewer appeal the Fox anchors have.

Regardless of Klein's view, for instance, that Anderson Cooper, one of the CNN anchors, is in the words of the article's writer, "the most impressive in the CNN news suite," I would beg to differ, since, to this viewer at least, Cooper looks very green behind the ears, and doesn't even look like a newsman, for goodness sake. I tune eleswhere or turn off the set whenever I see him.

Judging from Klein in this article, the new CNN president seems impressed that CNN is fleshing out the day's news, when, in fact, its newscasters often spend too much time on just a few subjects while skipping others that are worthy of attention. CNN's nightly wordinesss, indeed, is exceeded only, when one if abroad and gets to see it, by CNN International.

Aaron Brown, another CNN newscaster, is down 20% in viewership this year. I wonder if that trend has been overcome by a simply awful change in the format of his show, which now has him giving no news summary and going straight, on most nights, to a feature. I strongly suspect poor Brown, one of the most humane men in the business, may not last long in his present post. His Fox rival the same hour, Greta Van Susteren, is up 24% in the meantime.

What we need now from Times Calendar is a fair, insightful look of whyFox is such a success. It may be that its undoubted conservative ideological slant is more in tune with majority views. But whenever such an article comes, it should come from the Times own television critic. It ought to get a bigtime one like Rosenberg and quickly.

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