"You Don't Understand Our Audience"

Technology Review, which is one of the magazines I not only eagerly await, but read from cover to cover, published a 14 page screed against network news by John Hockenberry in the January/February issue.

Hockenberry, now at MIT's Media Lab, worked for NBC News for 12 years "working up" to a position on Dateline. He observes that Edward R. Murrow's "This Is London" broadcasts were revolutionary in the way they delivered immediate reporting to an America that had always felt justifiably—indeed, ideologically—distant from the rest of the world. "

"Communication technologies transformed America's view of itself, its politics, and its culture."

So you'd think, Hockenberry says, that as communications technology changed, the way that news was reported would adapt as well. Reporting did change—the networks decided that content was secondary, the important thing was creating greater and greater numbers of "passive viewers who will sit still for advertisements."

That's not exactly an earth-shattering observation. What's notable are the acidity and immediacy of Hockenberry's essay. It's obvious that he'll never go back to old media—indeed, after an article this inflammatory, he couldn't.

"The culmination of Dateline's Internet journalism strategy was the highly rated pile of programming debris called To Catch a Predator. The TCAP formula is to post offers of sex with minors on the Internet and see whether anybody responds. Dateline's notion of New Media was the technological equivalent of etching 'For a good time call Sally' on a men's room stall and waiting with cameras to see if anybody copied down the number."

It's a heck of a read—and as courageous an act as Cortés' burning of his boats.