Wheatley: We Must Change Our Ways

By Brian 

Lately, media organizations seem to emphasize the business side rather than the public service side of reporting the news, retired NBC News vice president Bill Wheatley said last night at Washington banquet.

“Important subjects aren’t covered because they aren’t considered to be audience-friendly. Poverty and race are good examples,” he said. And “there is an undue concentration on heat rather than light” in story selection, he added, according to Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton. Quoting the story:

“But the audience aren’t suckers, he suggested.

‘Our listeners and viewers, of course, aren’t stupid. Quite the opposite. They observe all this and judge us accordingly.’

If the industry does not want to be found wanting, suggested Wheatley, it must change its ways.

‘If we are to win back their support and, by the way, maintain the long-term viability of their business,’ he argued, ‘we are going to have to do more of the kind of work that indicates clearly that we have their best interests at heart, not just ours.'”

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> Update: 12:22pm: An e-mailer asks: “Sorry…but is this the same Bill Wheatley who in 1997 told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: ‘a lot of foreign news after the Cold War seemed to be less vital … more complicated, less directly linked to many Americans. How do you cover the former Soviet Union and make sense of it?’ Just curious.”