What about a CNN ‘news reality’ show?

Most corporate owners of mass news media, whether print or broadcast, are really in the advertising peddling business. They pay a whole lot of lip service – and assign ever-decreasing budgets -- to the stuff between the ads they call “news” or “opinion.”

The stuff could be high in quality. But that’s expensive and hurts the almighty bottom line. The public does not seem to care any more, judging by the nosedive of the quality of CNN and MS-NBC’s stuff these days.

Both cable TV outlets are in danger of being invited to join the Association of Supermarket Tabloids. How many rapes and murders of women can you exploit at one time? What about those ghost sightings in the barn at Devil City, Kansas. There’s an image of the guy who founded Midnight – the Montreal tab – in the cow dung out near the woodshed.

What about a “news reality” show on CNN where citizen reporters have to climb out of deep canyons in Africa and swim across Lake Ontario to get stories? The cit-reporter with the biggest breaking celebrity-item scoop, chosen by viewers, would spend a week as co-host of the Situation Room with Wolf or the CBS Evening News with Katie after she takes over. Wow! The Ratings!

Midnight creator Joe Azaria had no shame, either. Remember the Midnight scoop, after Nov. 22, 1963, that reported that Kennedy had been seen riding in a wheelchair on Mount Royal? Somebody had pictures, for goodness sake!

A Washington Post web site report said “Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today, reported an 11.5 percent decline in first-quarter earnings Wednesday as softer advertising and stock expenses weighed down results.”

Can newsroom cuts be far off?

Part of Gannett’s press release reporting the dip is reprinted below:

Gannett Co., Inc., Reports First Quarter Results

McLEAN, VA – Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI) reported today that 2006 first quarter earnings per diluted share from continuing operations were $0.99 compared to $1.03 per share in the first quarter of 2005. The company began reporting stock compensation expense in the first quarter of 2006 as required by Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 123-R. This non-cash expense totaled $11.2 million ($7.0 million after tax or $0.03 per share) in the quarter.

On December 25, 2005, the company completed the expansion and reorganization, with MediaNews Group, of the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership. The company’s ownership interest in the partnership was reduced and MediaNews Group became the managing partner. Results for the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership are no longer consolidated in the company’s financial statements. The company’s 40.6 percent interest in the partnership results is now included in other operating revenues.

As previously reported, the company completed an exchange of properties with Knight Ridder, Inc. in August 2005. This exchange of three Gannett newspapers and Knight Ridder’s Tallahassee, FL, newspaper, was accounted for as a sale of discontinued operations and a purchase of the Tallahassee newspaper. Operating results for 2005 exclude contributions from the former Gannett properties which have been reclassified to income from discontinued operations.

Results for the quarter also include the Detroit Newspaper Partnership, L.P. which, since August 1, 2005, has been fully consolidated in the financial statements of Gannett along with a minority interest charge for MediaNews Group’s interest.