News Talk

Television news talk in its earliest examples used already existing models. The press conference had already been modified on radio into a panel-interview format. Meet the Press is the oldest and longest-lived example of this type, which has proved to be one of the most unchanging of all news talk formats, although since Tim Russert's arrival the format has become looser. Similarly, prior models of debate and town meeting were used by television early on. In the 1980s Phil Donahue and Vladimir Pozner's Citizens' Summit extended the notion of town meeting to live intercontinental exchanges between Russian and American citizens as relations between the USSR and the United States warmed. In the 1980s Ted Koppel followed Edward R. Murrow's Small World example by institutionalizing trans-oceanic dialogue through live, satellite-feed interviews and international town meetings in countries such as Israel, the Philippines, and the Union of South Africa.

News talk includes forms that follow closely both the traditional talk events "borrowed" for television transmission and also the newer television-simulated or modified versions. The press conferences of the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon presidencies were often broadcast live, though frequently followed by television's own news talk creation: the "instant analysis'' commentary from network reporters. Thus there are always strong consonances and parallels between "real" events and their televised cousins.

At the same time, similarities that seem obvious may be misleading. Although the live or as-if-live broadcasts of Senate investigative hearings, U.N. assemblies, Congress, and the British Parliament (as covered by C-SPAN and other networks) may appear to be purely recorded public events, critics have noted that such broadcasts change the nature of the event, and some commentators have suggested that television and the Internet combined may actually become a new mode of community decision-making.

Other creations of radio and television are the discussion and newsmagazine of the air formats. Programs such as Washington Week in Review, Nightline, and Today echo older forms of talk, including Chautauquas and academic seminars, but these shows shape their communities of talk (''talk worlds'') in new ways. For example, play-by-play descriptions and commentary at sports events are certainly fresh talk, although it is the sporting event itself that people tune in to watch. Here, sports commentary could be considered frosting on the cake. But how appealing is a cake without frosting? Talk may become important enough in a marketing sense to make or break a show. In the 1970s, people tuned in to hear Howard Cosell spar with Don Meredith on Monday Night Football. Sports reporting usually falls into the subgenre of news talk, even if an entertainment talk personality like Dennis Miller briefly tries his hand at the form (as he did in his Monday Night Football experiment in the early 2000s). But some sports, such as Du-Mont Wrestling, fall under the entertainment talk category, since the entertainment value of the talk supersedes the report on the game or contest.

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