In Tonight at Six: A Daily Show Masquerading as Local TV News, veteran journalist Michael Olesker paints an intimate, behind-the-scenes picture of local television news as few have ever seen it. He describes the long slide of a medium that was once assumed to be the golden future of American journalism, but is now widely considered an afterthought for viewers seeking serious news coverage. In his two decades as a nightly on-air commentator at Baltimore’s WJZ-TV, Olesker watched as the station tumbled from pre-eminence as one of the country’s top-rated local affiliates–where the on-air news personalities included the two top-ranked anchors in the country, plus a young woman named Oprah Winfrey–to inglorious runner-up in its own market.
Tonight at Six offers a personal look at many of those public news personalities. But it’s also a story about the decline of all TV news: how commercial considerations, short-sighted management, and the constant pressure of ratings forced the dumbing-down of local news programs around the country. It’s the true story of how television stations purporting to cover the stories of huge metropolitan areas–their governors, mayors, city and county councils, school systems, police, criminal courts, neighborhoods, and more–quietly attempt this with no more than a handful of reporters. How do they do it?
As Olesker explains, they don’t.
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