Leaders of the Pack : Television: A poll of TV columnists finds that Murrow, Cronkite and Brinkley are the most influential news figures of all time. Today’s evening news anchors fail to make the list of the Top 10.
TV or not TV. . . .
PERSONAL BEST: None of today’s network anchors made the Top 10 in an all-time list of influential TV news figures, according to a poll of columnists who cover the medium.
Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley led the list, published by Television Quarterly.
Rounding out the Top 10 were Chet Huntley, “60 Minutes” producer Don Hewitt, Bill Moyers, former CBS News President Fred Friendly, ABC News President Roone Arledge, Eric Sevareid and Barbara Walters.
Dan Rather was 15th, Peter Jennings 21st and Tom Brokaw 26th.
Television Quarterly is the journal of the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
In a superb issue devoted entirely to TV journalism, the magazine also offers a provocative interview with Cronkite, the former CBS anchor, who says it is “obvious” that the network has kept him on the payroll so he wouldn’t sign with a competitor.
“Since they are not using me themselves and paying me a vast amount of money, that’s got to be the reason,” he says, adding that “it’s hard to understand” why the network rarely gives him air time anymore.
According to Cronkite, former CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter “acknowledged to me” at one point “that it was an agreement between him and Rather that they felt that Rather needed some time to develop on his own without the constant reminder of my years. I can see that as a temporary situation that they might have wanted or needed, but it has gone on for nine years and continues under a new management. I don’t understand that.”
Is he bitter about the way CBS News has treated him in recent years?
“Oh, a little, I suppose.”
NEWS JUNKIE: Forrest Sawyer, a frequent and highly competent sub for Ted Koppel on “Nightline,” is showing viewers his other side with some enterprising reporting for ABC in the Gulf War.
AT EASE: CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, now in Baghdad, just keeps getting better and better. With her comfortable sense of command of both the Gulf story and the TV screen, it would be surprising if one or more of the Big Three networks doesn’t try to swipe her.
HOMEWARD BOUND: Deborah Norville, whose maternity leave from NBC’s “Today” show begins this week, is due to give birth early next month. The network says she “expects to return to the program in the latter part of April.” Katie Couric takes over in her absence.
WAR GAMES: So you’re watching TV and you’re intrigued by the war’s military lingo. Go buy Frank Chadwick’s “Desert Shield Fact Book,” which includes a glossary of military terms. ARMs, for instance, are anti-radiation missiles--"equipped to seek out and home in on radar emissions. They are primarily used by airplanes to attack enemy anti-aircraft radars.”
PATTERNS: “Nightline’s” five consecutive weeks of ratings victory over “The Tonight Show” has little significance. It is a normal occurrence during major news stories, when “Nightline” always shoots up in viewership.
BALANCE OF POWER: CNN’s war coverage has helped Ted Turner’s four cable channels--TBS, TNT, CNN and Headline News--combine for a larger average audience around the clock than any of the Big Three networks during the period from Jan. 14-Feb. 3. “For the first time in history,” says Turner Broadcasting, “a single programmer other than ABC, CBS and NBC is consistently attracting the largest national television audience.”
DETOUR: That CNN journalist who said that Twentynine Palms--home of a huge Marine Corps base--is “on the outskirts of Palm Springs” ought to try hiking the distance when it is 120 degrees in August. It is about 50 miles.
STEADY HAND: “In the Heat of the Night,” guided by its determined star and producer, Carroll O’Connor, has quietly emerged as one of the few network series where blacks have a genuine dramatic presence.
WELCOME MAT: If you like “WIOU"--and we do--you’ll be happy to know that the TV newsroom drama returns with a special outing Monday and then settles back into its regular CBS Wednesday slot March 6. It is an ensemble series, and the only way to sustain viewer interest in the interaction is to keep it on weekly.
FIFTH DIMENSION: Put your order in now for “Visions from the Twilight Zone,” a wonderfully surreal coffee-table book by Arlen Schumer due out in April. It contains a 1959 article in which creator Rod Serling says the show is intended for “an adult audience too long considered to have IQs in negative figures.” And Serling’s widow, Carol, writes, “The TV censors left him alone, either because they didn’t understand what he was doing or believed that he was truly in outer space.”
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Many show business figures got their start as NBC pages, and the imminent closing of that department in Burbank is another sign of just how hard-pressed the networks are. It was a grand broadcasting tradition--and fortunately, NBC’s page system will continue in New York.
ON BOARD: Veteran political analyst Joe Scott has moved from guest status to a regular spot at KCBS Channel 2, where he appears on the 5 p.m. Thursday newscasts.
STRATEGY: Roseanne Barr’s publicity blitz--she’s all over the place--is going great guns. “Roseanne” is doing just fine, and Barr’s gig on “Saturday Night Live” got a tune-in that tied the show’s highest rating for the season.
BEING THERE: “I don’t carry a gun because I don’t want the people of Mayberry to fear a gun. I’d rather they would respect me.” --Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) in “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Say good night, Gracie. . . .