No one was surprised when the broadcast television networks decided not to carry President Obama’s speech Thursday evening. The networks aren’t The Networks any longer. Everyone remembers a moment when they first decided they needed cable television, too.
By offering superior content, cable reduced commercial television’s revenue stream, its ambitions, and its status. The networks remain a profitable and potent opinion-making business, but Thursday evening it was easy for them to prefer their peak advertising revenues and leave the television broadcast to PBS and the cable news channels
Something of the same thing has begun to happen to the newspapers.
Exhibit A in my view is Bloomberg News’s superior coverage of the situations in Moscow and Kiev. Competing daily stories match up pretty well on any given day – see Pro-Russian Rebels Stepping Up Attacks in East Ukraine vs. Biden Assails Russian Intervention in Ukraine as “Unaccepable” .
What changed my habits in this case have been the dispatches from Berlin by Leonid Bershidsky, of Bloomberg News. See, for instance, Putin-bashing at G-20 Meeting Was Juvenile, or Merkel is Playing Long-ball with Putin. Bershidky was founding editor of Russia’s top business daily, Vedomosti (a joint project of the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal), and the first publisher of the Russian edition of Forbes.
It’s not that the stories in the Times, the Journal and the Washington Post are uninteresting. It’s that Bershidsky’s columns are more knowledgeable and nuanced – with no trace of the triumphalism that colors so much US press coverage of Russia.