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ABC news anchor: Network news dominance is “dead”

Veteran news reporters spoke during the NAB’s annual FCC Breakfast on Tuesday, April 19, about the state of the ever-changing broadcast industry. Pictured: CBS “Sunday Morning” host Charles Osgood (left), ABC’s Sam Donaldson (middle) and CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield (right).

Veteran ABC newsman Sam Donaldson said network news has lost the battle as America’s primary source of breaking news.

Speaking during the annual FCC Breakfast at NAB2005, Donaldson said networks lost the edge on developing events long ago.

“God forbid, if someone shot the president, which network would you turn to? It will be cable, the Internet — something other than ‘General Hospital’ being interrupted,” Donaldson said.

Viewers are looking elsewhere even for everyday news, he said.

CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield and CBS “Sunday Morning” host Charles Osgood, also appearing at the breakfast, had more optimistic outlooks. “If it’s dying, it’s dying a very slow death,” Greenfield said.

While cable “smashed” the network news monopoly, Greenfield said, U.S. network news pulls in an average 30 million viewers each evening.

Osgood noted that he’s glad that he’s at the tail end of his career rather than the beginning. “It used to be when we wanted to make a show more appealing to more people, the first thing we did was design a new set,” he commented.

All three network reporters came out in favor of a federal shield law that would allow journalists to protect the identity of their sources without the threat of jail.

Donaldson, however, said reporters shouldn’t have blanket protection when lives are at stake, but didn’t know how to draft a law that would balance the need to ensure that journalists can protect whistle-blowers without impeding legal investigations.

The three also agreed that that Internet bloggers have had a positive impact on news because staff reporters are forced to better verify their information and pare opinions out of their work or face the wrath of scrutinizing critics.

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