ABC News President David Westin offered up an insightful analysis of the challenges facing his network in particular and journalism in general at a Media Institute Awards dinner in Washington Thursday night.
Westin (at least according to his prepared remarks obtained by John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable) dismissed the notion that “we need to start injecting opinion into our reporting” and said quality reporting alone no longer was enough.
“We have to go from a world in which we try to do a better job of covering the same news as everyone else to a world where we’re bringing our audiences news that no one else is,” he said.
Hard to do in a world where news often is broken by non-journalists on Twitter, and where online news and information sources continue to proliferate and compete for page views (if not necessarily for advertising dollars). But Westin suggested broadcast news organizations can separate themselves from the pack through enterprise reporting, specialization and having a “unique voice.”
In doing his own hard thinking, Westin came to the conclusion that one of ABC’s competitors is ABC, or at least a version of ABC co-opted and repurposed.
“Each of us has ended up competing against even ourselves,” he said. “Aggregators and search engines patrol the Internet, looking for bits and pieces of our reporting to post in short form on their sites. Some of the small ones simply take our reporting and reproduce it – at least until they’re discovered and forced to take it down. The largest and most reputable provide links to our websites that can, indeed, generate traffic for our own sites. But let’s face it, most of us rely for much of our information on brief summaries, just the way most of us read much of a newspaper by looking at the headlines and perhaps skimming the first paragraph. So, in a very real sense, one of the strongest competitors for us at ABC News is ABC News itself.”
I only wish John Eggerton had broken up that last quote into the bits and pieces I prefer. I’m certainly not going to read the whole thing! What is this, The Iliad?