"I’ve always felt I have a real obligation to the audience to be at the place where they can turn to for information, to get them through the day," Tom Brokaw once said. In the good old days, Dan Rather (beginning in 1981), Tom Brokaw (from 1982) and Peter Jennings (from 1983) were the gatekeepers in television news, steering the 22-minute dinner-hour (6.30pm) networks' news flagships and engaging some 38 million news watchers on any given night with the news of the world. 

Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings were symbols of continuity and order in the face of changes around the world. In those days, the 3 networks' newscasts reached 73% of the American households who reportedly depended on television each night as their principal source of news. However the core news-audience at the time were aged 50-plus. Tom Brokaw stressed, "There is no fixed formula for ratings success. People watch people. They’ll watch me as long as I deliver the kind of news they want and need."

Tom pointed out, "The network news audience is a large mass, looking at us in a distracted way. Many don’t know where Lebanon is. That is the mind-set we have to deal with. So we are trying to make stories more explanatory, with no presumption of knowledge." On reflection Roone Arledge remarked network newscasts must "assume the viewers already know" the headlines. 

Reporter James Wooten  argued, "There is the danger that you give the viewer the illusion that he or she is well informed, when you keep shortening and shortening and abbreviating until the appearance of information is merely that and that alone." News producer Burton Benjamin added, "(Richard) Salant used to say that his definition of news is what people need to know, not what people want to know." 

Timothy Russert of NBC maintained, "Crisis coverage has become one of the major factors in determining how well a news organization covers the news." News producer Paul Friedman reasoned, "There is still, and always will be a basic need for a program that tells people what happened to their world, in a serious authoritative way." 

Back in 1987, speaking to the 'U.S. News & World Report', Rupert Murdoch made the comment, "I’m rather suspicious that network news may be going out of fashion. Much of the greatest viewing audience now is in the local news." At the time, a study one network conducted said the average American citizen watched 76 minutes per week of network news and 146 minutes of local news. 

Tom Brokaw insisted, "The explosion of news is beginning to affect our story selection. When people tune us in they may already have seen someone reporting from in front of the White House. So we have to think about doing something unique while still fulfilling our obligation to give them the news." News producer Edward Fouhy expressed, "Network news has turned the White House into America's City Hall" thus transforming the politics of America by making the national political stage in Washington a local stage across the country.

By 1997, Tom Brokaw told James Endrst, "There has been, yes, this kind of quantum shift in what’s news and what’s important and how people relate to it. For a long time, in our kind of ivory tower way, we covered only what we thought was important and we missed, I believe, in this country alone, to say nothing of the world, a lot of profound (social) changes."

Dan Rather acknowledged, "We have no illusions. We try hard not to see mirages out there. I’m not here to kid you about anything. I'd love to be No. 1 in the ratings again. There may not be an audience large enough for hard news to ever again be the market leader. However, I will also not kid about this: I know – because I’ve seen rain and I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen sunny days and thought they’d never end – the ratings don’t last. Quality journalism does."

Peter Jennings remained philosophical, "The news every day presents itself, and you then go and seize upon those stories which you think will have the greatest relevance to the greatest number of people. On any given day, that can be science, that can be economics, that can be disaster, that can be the turn in a personality’s life if the personality is worthy enough. News is news is news."

Tom Brokaw recounted, "In the old days, I was a Washington correspondent, and because you were geared up on Capitol Hill, if the gavel fell, it got on the news whether or not it had any meaning or not. People now want to know about what has an immediate impact on their lives or is likely to have an impact on the future of their children … When I came of age, even as late as the 1970s, when it got dark at night there were two planets in the cosmos for evening news – one was CBS and the other was NBC. ABC wasn’t even a player then. Now (in 2001) the night sky is filled with choices. We are still the brightest planets – the 3 evening news programs – but people have a lot of other choices, not just when darkness falls, but all day long."

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