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TV News Fluff? Morning’s Just Tip of the Iceberg

According to Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast, some morning-show anchors are lamenting the soft, fluffy focus of their programs in light of the changes coming to CBS’ “The Early Show,” or whatever they wind up calling it.

This sort of brings to mind the anecdote about the kid who kills his parents and then asks for mercy because he’s an orphan.

“Today” and “Good Morning America” have been in a tabloid-and-fluff battle for years, and both have done quite handsomely with it. To start complaining now about the balance being out of whack comes as too little, way too late.

“We need to be harder … Can we give them some medicine? We give them a lot of candy now,” “GMA’s” Robin Roberts told Kurtz.

Indeed, the only reason “The Early Show” can afford to experiment with harder news is because it has so little to lose. That’s also been partially responsible for the new direction of the third-place “CBS Evening News” under Scott Pelley.

As I stated in my most recent column, I have my doubts about the viability of harder news programs — Gmanot because I don’t want them to work, but because they so seldom have — especially in the mornings. Audiences seem programmed to take their coffee with a big dose of angel-food cake, journalistically speaking.

Still, as I’ve argued for years, those morning values have actually spread, like a contagion, to other news product. That includes “Nightline” (whose ratings performance in its new format has come with an extra dose of fluff) and newsmags like “48 Hours Mysteries,” “Dateline” and “20/20,” which appear never to have met a scandalous murder or missing woman who wasn’t worth featuring.

So while I wish CBS well in its efforts to bring the sensibilities of its signature primetime news program, “60 Minutes,” to other offerings and dayparts, I certainly wouldn’t bet my own money on its success just yet.

And speaking of money, to any morning anchors whining about how soft their programs have become, here’s a breaking news flash: Talk is cheap.

ADD NETWORK NEWS: And as Columbo would say, one more thing: Apparently being a broadcast journalist is so easy, all you really need is a famous name to become one.

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