October 17, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 27  

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CBS News anchor likes news

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

London-born CBS News anchor and correspondent Thalia Assuras returned to her alma mater yesterday to deliver a lecture entitled Television Network News — Under Siege.

“I believe in some ways we’re in serious trouble in the news industry,” Assuras said. “The bottom line is that the network news audience is shrinking,” she added. “The numbers tell very distressing stories.”

As a weekend news anchor for CBS, Assuras said over the years, audience levels have dropped to considerably low levels, from 70 per cent in the ’70s down to only 43 per cent in 2002.

As a result, Assuras said, this has severely restricted the ability to cover the news because of a lack of funds, which lead to layoffs.

She said the grandfathers of broadcast news networks — CBS, NBC and ABC — are threatened by cable news networks such as FOX and CNN as well as from new technologies and an abundance of channels. “It does not take a rocket scientist to draw the conclusion that broadcast networks are in trouble.”

Assuras also said news coverage today is increasingly focused on crime, “news you can use” and entertainment. This “softening” of the news is what Assuras said is troubling for society. “Newscasts are no longer all that much about news.”

When asked if she agreed with filmmaker Michael Moore’s opinion that American news is creating a climate of fear, Assuras said “I think he has somewhat of a point,” but said the media was not intentionally creating that climate. “I think in some ways that can’t be helped.”

On the Bush administration, Assuras said they are highly adept at controlling the news. “When this administration wants to keep something quiet, they do extraordinarily well,” she said. “When you ask the wrong questions, you get stonewalled.”

Assuras also took issue with the highly-rated FOX news network and said they often present opinion as fact. “Don’t believe everything you hear on television,” she said.

However, she denied the existence of a right-wing media conspiracy in the United States, when questioned by a member of the audience.
“She’s a good speaker, but she’s a bit short-sighted about the amount of political bias in American news,” said Doug Mann, a part-time media and information technology teacher.

Richard Gilmore, a staff member in the media section in Althouse College, said it was nice to hear his thoughts on the American media confirmed by Assuras. “It was good to hear someone not toeing the line.”



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