Howard Kurtz is the Washington Post's media critic and host of CNN's Reliable Sources. Kurtz is also the author of the just published Reality Show: Inside The Last Great Television News War. This is a detailed and often riveting account of the unexpectedly rapid and often dramatic transition from the network anchor era of Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather to the new "big three" of Charlie Gibson, Brian Williams and Katie Couric. From the high point of the first big three to the week just finishing, the networks lost about 30 million viewers, and now welcome a combined audience of less than 25 million each night. Reality Show is a chronicle of decline, long on the details of what happened, not so long on the why. No matter, conservatives already know a lot of the "why," and the elite Beltway-Manhattan media don't care, so the account of the bleeding out of vitality and significance of the nightly news is entertaining without it.
Kurtz was my guest for a rare two-hour interview yesterday. (The transcript is here. The audio for hour one here and hour two here.) Along the way we cover many of the most interesting aspects of his very candid book: Katie Couric's lack of news judgment; the hyper-leftism of The Daily Show; the rapid aging of the network audience to a point where "25 million" vastly overstates the significance of the viewers; the "bubble" that network news lives in and cannot seem to break out of.