CBS Grows Brain, Kenny Rogers Takes Train to Nowhere

A few months ago all we heard in the media world was CBS this and CBS that. Then Dan Rather stepped down. And poof, just like that, CBS was gone from the world of media chatter.

Then on Tuesday came an announcement (PDF) from CBS that it would be revamping its Web presence with a digital online news network, a “Public Eye” blog looking at the network’s newsgathering process, and some other bells and whistles.

Reviews have been mixed. Kevin Craver of — who, as his site’s name implies, is no fan of the retired anchor or his former platform — writes, “Next thing you know, the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series and hell will freeze over.”

Craver hands the network a backhanded compliment, suggesting the move indicates CBS “is beginning to grow a brain. Maybe.” But the antagonism quickly spills over. “Private note to soon-to-be-CBS-blogger Vaughn Ververs — blog patrons can smell a phony a mile away. If your blog is about polishing CBS’s image rather than honest-to-God transparency and reform of your biased and shattered ‘news’ division, ‘Public Eye’ will be an online version of the joke that the Tiffany Network has become. And if you think a CBS blog will have magical properties to whitewash your network’s next big goof up and ensuing stonewall, you’ll learn the opposite the hard way.”

No worries, though, says the humble Craver. “If ‘Public Eye’ turns out to be a sham, people can always get the skinny about CBS from me.”

A less cynical Ron Mwangaguhunga thinks this a sound business move by CBS. He lays out a six-point argument: “1) Vaughn Ververs, who will serve as a conduit between blog readers and CBS News brass holds himself to the highest ethical online standards and is well respected. And, we might add, tastefully controversial when the occasion merits. 2) The blog will give CBS News some well-needed transparency in their news-gathering and reporting process. 3) It will attract a younger audience (Does anyone other than nostalgic seniors watch the ‘Evening News’?) 4) Round the clock reporting (A 30-minute broadcast simply cannot compete in the 24/7 news cycle) 5) The ‘cable bypass’ strategy will allow workers in their desks to access the news frequently.”

Mwangaguhunga’s number six: “buzz” — you know, like Blog Reports dedicated to the story.

Mike at the Pokkari blog welcomes the move but thinks that “what CBS News has done with its Web site is decidedly non-revolutionary. It’s very similar, in fact, to what CNN has already done.”

He explains, “They’ve both done it badly. None of the TV news Web sites allow you to link directly to video. None of the TV news Web sites allow you to build smart playlists. There’s no folksonomy, no taxonomy. The sites are still totally top-down, and they don’t offer a viewing experience … they offer a newspaper-with-moving-pictures experience ([CBS News chief Andrew] Heyward even said that CBS News’ redesign was ‘more like a newspaper’).”

Despite the lagging design, he admits, “The good news is that CBS does ‘get it’ in the broad sense.”

And, finally, as an ode to the second half of the baseball season kicking off today, we turn to A Little Bit of Everything, who has something to say about the Kenny Rogers story that has dominated the baseball news cycle. BCB sums up the story so far: “The prominent story in Major League Baseball this past fortnight has been the actions of Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers, who in an apparent break with sanity, shoved a cameraman during pre-game warmups at Texas Stadium in Arlington.”

Here’s what bothers him about the coverage of the dustup:

Because he happens to share the same name as another famous person, the beloved singer Kenny Rogers, the media has taken it upon themselves to saddle Kenny the pitcher with names and references derived from the body of work of Kenny the singer. Kenny the pitcher is often referred to as “The Gambler” or passing references are made to chicken a la Kenny Rogers Roasted Chicken restaurants. The problem with these references is that one has nothing to do with the other. As far as we know Kenny the pitcher has never been “on a train bound for nowhere” during “a warm summer evening.” Nor do we have any evidence of how much Kenny the pitcher likes or dislikes poultry meals. Regardless of the fact the two men only share a name, here are some actual headlines seen in reference to the Kenny Rogers’ incident:

Not a wise gamble by Kenny Rogers — Yahoo! News

Or the this cowboy-themed one:

Media stampedes to talk with Rogers — Arizona Republic

BCB offers these final words, “Dreadful stuff. I know the media is trying be witty and cute. Unfortunately they end up spewing badly-written cliches which make Chris Berman look good. Note to new parents, please avoid naming your children after famous people unless you want them to be the butt of cliche nicknames and bad jokes.”

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.