Variety TV Critic: ‘ABC News is another cog in the corporate machinery’

By Alex Weprin 

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Variety TV critic Brian Lowry uses the “Nightline”/Jimmy Kimmel situation as a jumping off point to examine the current state of ABC’s news division.

He notes the recent spate of gaffes (The Tea Party incident in Aurora, The Tony Scott cancer story, etc), as well as what happened the last time “Nightline” went to primetime, to argue that while business may be booming, the quality of the journalism is not as clear.

Whatever the truth, there’s a perception ABC is developing a habit of placing being first ahead of accuracy…

Perhaps more troubling, as ABC News experiences qualitative glitches, the bottom-line news has been mostly rosy — particularly in the morning, where “Good Morning America” is challenging “Today’s” longtime dominance of the daypart.

ABC News prez Ben Sherwood has certainly said all the right things about the news division and its priorities. Still, he was recruited to be a forward-thinker and team player, and has appeared pretty willing to serve the network’s larger objectives.

So when “Nightline” landed a coveted chunk of primetime real estate, instead of the serious reporting that once defined the program, those hours carried the subtitle “Beyond Belief,” focusing on psychic abilities, out-of-body experiences and miracles. Like “What Would You Do?” — a staged morality play produced by the news division — it was the kind of entertainment-oriented fare, frankly, that wouldn’t look out of place on Investigation Discovery or Syfy.