I couldn’t be happier for Elizabeth Vargas, who along with Bob Woodruff will anchor ABC’s World News Tonight. And it’s not just because she is a fellow Missouri School of Journalism alum, though it is nice to show the New York media elite that there are other worthy journalism schools besides the one in uptown Manhattan.
I’m happy because Vargas and Woodruff will be the first network news anchors to start their jobs as both online and offline journalists. In additional to a web-only preview newscast, they will anchor three separate evening news shows for east and west coast time zones. This allows them to provide more up-to-date coverage of developing stories, as well as geographically targeted stories important to east or west coast viewers. ABC also plans to make some stories or interviews that didn’t make the on-air cut available online (I assume as part of their “Broadcast Plus” section).
ABC’s investment in producing more network news at a time when viewership is on a decades-long decline is either admirable or suicidal. Nevertheless, the experiment is worth watching, which is more than you can say for most other network or cable news programs.
Still, ABC should go further with the online component. In addition to the web-only preview show, they should do what NBC News is doing and make each of the nightly broadcasts available online, on-demand, in their entirety. And ABC should also make the newscasts available as video podcasts, just as they are doing with Desperate Housewives and are planning to do with ESPN content. ABC already has audio podcasts, so video shouldn’t be a big stretch.
By the way, Vargas was a few years ahead of me at Missouri, so I never got to meet her or watch her do the news on KOMU. Instead, my class included Jill Bauer, a host on shopping channel QVC. Now how many Columbia or NYU j-school alums can say that?