An Open Letter to Les Moonves

Dear Mr. Moonves,

With the announcement that Katic Couric will seek an early end to her contract with The CBS Evening News, and the equally dismal ratings for CBS This Morning, perhaps it is time to look for a more radical approach.

Certainly dumping out of television news is one answer, and perhaps this is what your talks with CNN imply.  I think, however, there is a better alternative.  I think it is possible to recast CBS News in the mold of the 21st Century – to put the network on the cutting edge of the digital news revolution.

Here is what I propose to you:

For a fraction of what you were paying Katie Couric each year, let me conduct a national search for the best journalistic talent the country has to offer: local news, newspapers, online, radio, wire services – everywhere.

I will deliver to you the most powerful machine for digital newsgathering the world has ever seen.  I will take CBS News back to the top.

Let me put them through the most intensive 3 month VJ training bootcamp you can imagine.  They’ll not only learn how to shoot, cut and upload, but we’ll expose them to the best journalists, cameramen, editors, legal minds and reporters in the country.  A kind of CBS University.

When they graduate, we’ll hire them at $100,000 a year to report for CBS – for the evening news, for the morning news and for CBS News online.  They’ll do it from all over the world. They’ll use state-of-the art small digital cameras, edit on laptops and upload to the CBS News website 24-hours a day.  They’ll be for CBS News today what ‘Murrow’s Boys’ was for Bill Paley; a small, elite group that will set the standard for television and online journalism for a generation.

We can do this.

The people are there.

The technology is here. And the appetite for high quality/fast turn/ compelling yet inexpensive video content is here as well.

What do you say, Les?

The risk is tiny.  30 of the world’s best new journalists at $100,000 a year is only $3 million. You’re paying Katie $15 million.

I am ready to change the world, if you are.


10 responses to “An Open Letter to Les Moonves

  1. I genuinely hope they take you up on this offer, Michael – Television news is about as interesting as watching the grass grow these days – that includes the lackluster video footage being shot by the so called pro’s.

  2. Well… They’re trying… Kind of.

  3. Hey, I’m not one of the world’s best – but I’ll take the course and try to become one, and you can pay me only $80,000

  4. If CBS thinks selling out to CNN makes sense, then this idea — a fantastic one, by the way — won’t go anywhere with them.

    That said, what about pitching it to NPR? They have the journalistic integrity required, could muster the resources to start exactly what you’re proposing and need something to grow to the next level anyway.

    Don’t bother with PBS, though. They definitely don’t have the money (nor could they get it) and have been in strategy decay for more than a decade. They’re not sure why they’re here anymore.

  5. Great dare Michael – keep at them – what can they lose – think of what they could gain? Just the energy about the project might revitalize them

  6. NPR would be a great place to go, if they would make the leap from radio journalism to digital jouranalism.

    Many years ago, I founded VNI by giving the NPR stringers video cameras to use instead of tape recorders. That company was purchased by The NY Times and disappeared into the maw of the building. Too early for video online.

    Maybe NPR is ready to go now?

  7. Great insights. Some additional points I’ll propose regarding the inevitability of this revolution:

    1) Accessibility – In our time displaced economy (think Tivo), we have access to news and information anywhere anytime (think iPhone). Thus I see less reliance on traditional, fixed time, hour long broadcasts to get this. Consequently, I also see the ‘pull’ vs ‘push’ paradigm continue to proliferate because it increases the consumers control to WHEN they get information – realtime even.

    2) Relevance (trust) – Increasingly, there is less trust and relevance with traditional media outlets. The social revolution has also enabled consumers to find and choose WHERE they get their information and how personally relevant it is to them. The ‘reality’ trend alluded to this, but traditional media still clung to over produced segments that the online generation saw right through. What is needed is information from people (plural) who consumers can relate to, raw, and niche targeted.

    So how do I see this playing out… Imagine traveling to Europe and with a few free days you decide to take a side trip to Paris. Since you had little time to plan this trip, you pull out your iPhone and bring up Google Maps. With GPS, the iPhone knows your current location and suggests events/meetups/restaurants/sights/news going on within your immediate area right now. Like, a new exhibition at the Musee d’Orsay today (with directions and link to buy tickets), or transit workers on strike, so recommendations to take a taxi. Also, right from Google Maps are video overlays of short 2 min VJ dispatches describing these; exactly tailored to your likes/dislikes and from your ‘trusted sources’.

    I believe the above scenario is not a question of if, but when.

  8. Venson – great analysis of how media is being consumed by todays culture.

  9. Pingback: purple motes » economics of news production

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