×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

ABC’s Sherwood Rejects Hard-Soft News Labels

ABC News Prez Ben Sherwood rejects traditional “hard” and “soft” news labels, and if I was in his shoes addressing a bunch of reporters, I’d probably do the exact same thing.

BensherwoodSpeaking at the TV Critics Assn. on Monday, Sherwood bristled (even though he insisted he wasn’t) at suggestions ABC and a signature program like “Nightline” — which used its primetime showcase to air specials about strange occurrences, titled “Beyond Belief” — had gotten more lifestyle-ish in pursuit of viewers.

According to Sherwood, “Nightline” offers “a healthy mix of the news that people need,” citing “The relevance of the news in real people’s lives” as his criteria for what qualifies as “news,” as opposed to hard vs. soft. After the session, he told me there’s a need to “broaden the definition of what a news organization does,” referring to ABC News as a provider of “non-fiction content,” which does widen the umbrella. Heck, “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew” fits that rough description, though Sherwood talked up the network’s rigid standards.

Frankly, I’m not clear how paranormal activity qualifies as “relevant” unless you’ve been haunted by a ghost, but it’s certainly relevant to trying to attract an audience. And perhaps that’s what bugs me about his response. Why can’t news execs just admit there’s an audience for “softer” news, and that purists aren’t being realistic about the clicks-and-ratings parameters of today’s digital world, which have given even staid old newspapers an incentive to pander in order to chase traffic — especially among younger demos — on the web.

Not surprisingly, though, Sherwood touted a number of ABC News coups during the last year — things like the Arab Spring and Brian Ross’ investigative reports — and shockingly, none of them had to do with Casey Anthony or Beyonce’s baby.

I don’t fault ABC for going where the eyeballs are. But insisting the network hasn’t fluffed up (or down) its content toward that end is hard — or to hear Sherwood tell it, since there’s apparently no distinction, soft — to swallow.

More Voices

  • Hollywood Has Come Far With Diversity

    An Insider's Look at Hollywood's Diversity Efforts and How Far It Still Needs to Go

    I am a white man working in Hollywood. I grew up in Beverlywood, an all-white, predominantly Jewish, Los Angeles neighborhood sandwiched between 20th Century Fox Studios and MGM, where my elementary school had only one black student. I am compelled to write about diversity in Hollywood because “diversity” — in front of and behind the camera [...]

  • Venice Film Festival A Star is

    How Venice, Toronto and Telluride Festivals Stole Cannes' Luster (Column)

    In all the years I’ve been attending film festivals, I have never seen a lineup that looked as good on paper as Venice’s did this fall, boasting new films by Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), Damien Chazelle (“First Man”), Paul Greengrass (“22 July”), Mike Leigh (“Peterloo”) and the Coen brothers (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”) in competition, [...]

  • Black Women in Medicine BTS

    Hollywood Needs to Include People With Disabilities on Both Sides of the Camera (Guest Column)

    In five years, nothing has changed. Despite open calls for greater diversity and inclusion, recent research shows that there was little change in the number of characters with disabilities in popular films in 2017. A study conducted by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that [...]

  • Seven Seconds

    Fighting the Racial Bias at the Core of Hollywood’s Cop Shows (Guest Column)

    If fiction is the lie that tells a deeper truth, the TV crime genre has been, for the most part, the lie that simply tells a lie. As a storyteller (Veena) and an advocate for racial justice (Rashad), we collaborated for the past two-and-a-half years in an attempt to reimagine the roles of cops, victims, [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Trial

    Column: Documentarian Barry Avrich Ponders Whether Harvey Weinstein Will Be Convicted

    Will Harvey Weinstein go to jail? That’s perhaps the most debated topic in Hollywood. It’s a question that makes me miss my friend Dominick Dunne, the controversial Vanity Fair columnist who would have already succeeded in interview-ing the chambermaids at Harvey’s sex-addiction clinic. Dunne once prophetically told me there would be a massive reckoning in Hollywood. He [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content