THE EVENING STARS: The Rise of the Network Anchors by Barbara Matusow

THE EVENING STARS: The Rise of the Network Anchors

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This latest addition to the proliferating newsstar literature is an amateurish hash consisting, in about equal parts, of: banal, contradictory comment on the ""triumph of the anchor""; lame, often belittling personality profiles of network anchors from Douglas Edwards and John Cameron Swayze to Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw; and accounts of the big ruckuses--the Barbara-Walters/Harry-Reasoner fiasco, the Rather and Brokaw contract carryings-on. The ""triumph of the anchor"" means, to Matusow, Rather's and Brokaw's gaining more ""control"" over the evening news than their predecessors enjoyed--and the network news department relinquishing some control. This would be a bad thing, she thinks, if they were autocrats (which she doesn't think they are). And although ""the system,"" as she sees it, is ""almost totally unfettered by any considerations except the need to maximize profits"" (p. 4)--hence, the triumph of the anchor--""the three network evening newscasts have retained their traditional emphasis on hard news and solid, credible reporting"" (p. 274). Her complaint, then? ""All three programs are still aimed too far over the head of the average, high-school-educated viewer."" If this is incoherent, the treatment of the anchors is mostly snide--though nothing hangs together or adds up here either. Re the Rather/Mudd rivalry to succeed Walter Cronkite, Rather is deemed to be ""hard-driving,"" theatrical, opportunistic, Mudd to be principled but aloof--the better news-writer and -reader, but a poor ad-libber and a very poor mixer: humdrum observations suggesting only that Rather got the job parry because he was more of a regular guy and a better team player. (So what about the alleged ""triumph""? the supposed elitism?) Others--notably Walter Cronkite--simply get it in the neck. ""His drive to win propelled him to amazing feats of endurance. . . . Another [hidden] facet of his personality was his star-sized ego. . . . Cronkite was also careful to promote a spotless personal and professional image."" Etcetera. (Actually, he's presented as an ""autocrat"" who didn't make waves.) People apparently did talk to Matusow--but what she made of that access is messy, crude, and irresponsible.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1983
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin