NEWSWATCH: How TV Decides the News by AV Westin

NEWSWATCH: How TV Decides the News

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fluff. In TV-news history, Av Westin is best known as the dynamo-producer who boosted the ratings of ABC's ""Evening News,"" in 1969 and subsequently, by a combination of innovative, attention-holding devices (loges and key quotes; more and shorter stories) and a novel, viewer-centered news philosophy (""Is my world safe? Is my city and home safe?""). The devices do get described here, and the philosophy does get articulated, but the patchy, scrambled text provides almost no historical context or systematic exposition. It doesn't even have a distinct, consistent point of view. (""If you rely only on the TV newscast, you are woefully ignorant""; ""Even one more interested viewer means one more informed citizen."" Or, his own initiatives notwithstanding: ""all three network news broadcasts present essentially the same material""; viewers go with the anchors.) In the mÉlange of standard topics (technical advances, how a broadcast is put together, women and blacks), anecdotes (hazards, feats, goofs), and personal tributes (Mike Wallace is tops with Westin), there are assorted scraps of fresh, high-interest material: early on, how Westin's proposed mix of hard news and background features, ""a candid crib"" from a BBC program, made him the producer of the new ""ABC Morning News"" in 1963; latterly, how he and Roone Arledge cooled the Barbara Walters-Harry Reasoner feud and came to adopt the multi-anchor ""World News Tonight"" format. (There's also some edged commentary on Reasoner, Frank Reynolds, and others--plus word of a decision-pending visit from Dan Rather.) On a couple of publicly-questioned matters (why those ratings went up in '69; why Westin called for an early emphasis on the US Vietnam pullout), there's some oblique illumination. But Westin, disappointingly, doesn't speak up strongly for himself any more than he faces the issues raised by TV-news critics.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster