During the Cold War, "the evening news was everything. It was the gateway to the American evening," newshound Gordon Williams remembered. For many, TV was people's links to the outside world, a weekday evening ritual. Evening newscasts "were a reflection of the world", at one point in the 1970-71 season, attracting some 75% share of the audience and 35.2% ratings. 

Peter Jennings made the observation in 1997, "When you combine the audiences of the 3 evening newscasts, it's not half bad, given all the competition." With the end of the Cold War, Peter Jennings told 'The Orlando Sentinel' in 1997, it became more difficult for the evening newscasts to decide what mattered to viewers. By the 1990s, the 3 newscasts mixed traditional hard news stories, or substantive reporting with other stories "relevant to people's lives out there," Tom Brokaw explained. 

Arnie Kleiner of local station WMAR reminded in 1986, "Local news is more important to our local audience than the network news is. It's important for us to serve our community." Like newspapers, it was said, evening newscasts were experiencing trouble attracting younger following. Peter Jennings told 'USA Today' in 2001, "I cannot remember a time when we have been under such pressure to get an audience, to get the 18-to-49 demographic, because that's what the advertiser wants." 

Evening news, as noted, was a tradition born at a time when evening newspapers were important had one of television oldest audiences. By 2004, Bill Hemmer remarked, "Our business is changing." Tom Brokaw conceded, "It’s indisputable that we're not as big a deal as we used to be. But we still need to have a mainstream network newscast that tries to present a fair representation of what happened on a given day.

"We have to do it without fear or favor while also breaking through a lot of the other audio or visual chatter and clutter. It's somewhat harder to do, but I believe very strongly in a variety of choices. If we’re going to live by the First Amendment, we can’t confine it to just that part of the spectrum that satisifies us." As reported, with rapid advances in technologies from satellites to cable TV to the internet (via 24-hour broadband service) to laptop computers with built-in telephone modems, the 21st century 24-hour-a-day all-news climate with live coverage of major news events and other news stories repeated regularly during the day had allowed more people access to late-breaking information than the previous generation.

As a result, "the term 'exclusive' borders on the anachronistic because if a breaking news story has significant impact, it comes from the content of the story, not from its exclusivity," the 'Los Angeles Times' highlighted in 1998, "because the media outlet could break the news tomorrow or next week." Tom Brokaw continued, "When I first got involved in network news, it was a duopoly. But I work very hard to reflect a representation of what's going on out there in the rest of the country. I think I’m going to feel the weight of history more than anything else. I’d covered epic news stories – natural disasters; the fall of the Berlin Wall; 9/11; the release of Nelson Mandela; Tiananmen Square."

By 1999-2000, the 3 evening newscasts attracted a combined 44% share of the audience and 21.3% ratings. Tom Brokaw expressed, "For us to say, 'This is your spinach news, eat it and leave the rest alone,' is just inappropriate. We have to be able to compete with everybody else." Bill Kovach, the former editor of the 'Atlanta Constitution' cautioned the grab for viewers with mass-appeal exclusive news stories "drives the process too hard in the wrong direction … to lower its standards of what is acceptable."

By 2001, from Lila Buchanan to Patricia Ragan Hoehner to John Landgraf, the general consensus was: "We have so many other choices of programs, plus a whole world of information on the internet. Local news, weather and traffic are easily accessed online. Concentrate on the larger issues that affect all of us." In TV’s multi-channel universe, newsmagazines proliferated (made up of the words pro (for), life, and rate).

Newsmagazine shows were described as one-hour of television devoted to 3 or more individual in-depth pieces. It was a breakthrough concept for the 1990s television. Of its popularity, Warren Littlefield told the 'Dallas Morning News' in 1998, "They are in touch with what the audience is seeking. The audience clearly feels a bond with these stories." At the start of the '90s decade, Steve Friedman stated, "These shows are not islands now, but they are part of the landscape of television.

"Now (in 1990) there are a lot of other opportunities to find out what happened during the day. That doesn’t mean you put on junk or dancing production numbers. We have to tell people what happened, but we also have to do other things. You’ve got to touch people. You’ve got to have some vitality in the show." By March 1992, "ABC has 2 of these programs ('20/20' and 'Prime Time Live'), and is working on a 3rd. These are now part of the mainstream. CBS has 3 of them ('60 Minutes', '48 Hours' and 'Street Stories')."  

Andrew Heyward recounted, "'48 Hours' was initially created (in 1988) to minimize losses in tough time periods. It was a defense piece. Now, these are seen not as liabilities, not as loss leaders. When they're done well, and positioned properly, they can come in 1st or 2nd in their time period. It's getting harder and harder for the networks to generate 'appointment television'.

"To sustain a drama, you have to develop the characters, and then look forward to their adventures. Many, many TV viewers are not available to follow the drama every week. But you don’t have to see '48 Hours' every week to get the full experience. News suits the more unpredictable lifestyle of the American family. When it's news, the programming at least provides the illusion of freshness and originality."

Audience analyst Larry Hymes theorized, "It’s harder for an entertainment series to get sampling and develop a core audience. With a newsmagazine, they're topic-driven." David Westin made the comment, "The universe for the syndicator is not that universe set by how many hours the network has during the week … It’s how many hours are available to be purchased by more than 700 television stations all over the country ... and no show loses money."

By 1996, NBC expanded the popular 'Dateline' program with a Sunday night edition to go head-to-head against '60 Minutes'. At the time, Andrew Lack of 'NBC News' insisted, "There are two ways to examine this. One is from the ratings perspective. They ('60 Minutes') are going to win that war. In fact, I think 'Dateline' will probably finish 3rd.

"From a programming standpoint, this move gives 'Dateline' another tremendous opportunity to extend its journalistic reach across the course of a week. It allows us to really roll through the breaking stories with the kind of muscle in the marketplace that no other news show has." He also recognized, "There will be some efficiencies … some economies of scale involved in expansion."

It was understood the average cost of an hour-long network newsmagazine was about $750,000 compared to a Hollywood production of such series as 'Seaquest', roughly $2 million per episode. "Sometimes life passes a show by. TV passes it by. It doesn’t change fast enough," David Westin pointed out. "What might be a larger phenomenon, a stronger driving force within the TV business is a desire for more news programming in prime time. That seems to be the trend at the moment (in 1998)."

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