Former CBS News Producer Urges Network To ‘Take A Risk’ With Scott Pelley ‘Before It’s Too Late’

Back in the day, Michael Rosenblum toiled as a producer at CBS News, before leaving the network and making a name for himself as a pioneer in transforming news operations. He helped launch Current TV and New York’s local NY1, and has trained journalists to shoot their own video at The New York Times, the BBC, and networks in Germany, Holland and elsewhere. But he wonders why the recently-revamped CBS Evening News still looks so, you know, unchanged. Comparing the newscast now anchored by Scott Pelley, which included a freshened up set and the return of a world map made famous as part of the set used by CBS legend Walter Cronkite, Rosenblum argues on his blog today that Pelley’s newscast looks nearly identical to the newscast put on by NBC’s John Cameron Swayze–in 1949. “Does it look pretty much the same after 62 years? Isn’t this astonishing? Isn’t this astonishing for a medium that supposedly is on the cutting edge of technology?”

“In the real world there is not a dime’s worth of difference between Scott Pelley, Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams or Walter Cronkite. Snore,” he writes. And obviously, the networks–engaged in a fierce battle for viewers–would heartily disagree.

Rosenblum, who’s argued that local news as we’ve known it is dead–compares broadcast news to computers. In the 1940s, a computer would fill a room. Today, it’s an iPad:

Why have computers matured so much over the past 62 years while TV news has remained pretty much unchanged? Unevolved?

Part of the reason is inherent in the industry. It is an industry driven not by risk, but rather by fear.

When I was at CBS News we used to call the place Cubicles of Fear.

The reason was that the risks for any innovation were so high (if you tried something and it failed, they fired you), and the rewards so scanty.

Unlike online start-ups, no one at CBS News got equity in CBS, so what was the reward for big growth? Nothing.

Come on, take a risk – a real risk – before it’s too late. As Dan Rather used to say–looking and sounding like everyone else–“Courage”

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