President's Message: Listen More, Speak Less

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 9/14/20 12:02 PM


Today I’m wondering, how exactly is it that television news operations are still in business? When last I worked in television news, revenues were derived from advertisers. And businesses only part with marketing dollars to advertise during programs actually being watched. There was a very sophisticated way of measuring viewership and costs of ads varied depending on just how popular the show was.

At least that’s how it used to be. I know I’m starting to get old (I’m reminded of it often by “family and friends”), but I’m not THAT old.

I imagine there’s a very similar advertising structure in place today. But can someone please explain how they pay all these reporters and know-it-all commentators on TV today? If ratings still determine advertising revenue, there can’t be much profit.

There was a time when my editors would scream profanities at anyone in the newsroom for injecting themselves into a story in even a minor way. “We are storytellers, not story makers” we’d be admonished. “Get yourself out of the story. The viewers don’t care what you think or feel.”

That’s a far cry from much of what you find on TV news programs today, where the stories are as much or more about the people telling them than they are about the subjects or people they’re reporting on. My former editors, if they still watch the news, are probably turning purple with all the profanity they have to yell at the TV.

If I had a dollar for every person who’s told me they’ve given up watching a major television news program, I’d be a very rich man indeed. Most of course still watch their local news, but national coverage? Not bloody likely!

Well, that was all true up until the pandemic struck. After some major declines in recent years, television viewership this year has surged to all-time highs for many networks. With all of us stuck at home, it’s certainly not surprising. What else are you going to do? (If you’re a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiratorialist, you might wonder if the TV stations are actually behind all this quarantine business… hmmmm?)

But seriously, the fact that TV viewership is actually up, and TV news programs are seeing record audiences, has me all the more fearful about what it means for calm, rational public discourse. If you watch one certain station’s news (opinion) you’ll likely get a completely different story than another station’s news (opinion). Makes you wonder if they were really at the same event, or if one is covering news of upside-down world.

My friend Jim Shepherd at the Outdoor Wire had an absolutely brilliant column on September 11 about the current state-of-affairs in our country. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to head on over to and check it out. He recalls that on September 11, 2001, we actually faced a common enemy, and it brought us all together as Americans.

Today’s America is much different he laments, and he posits that we may have an even greater enemy today – ourselves. We’re on a course, he suggests, in need of major correction or even a new map altogether. I for one hope he’s dead wrong. I didn’t ask him directly, but I suspect he also hopes he’s wrong.

We’ve got to somehow find our way back to the days when facts were facts, opinions were opinions, and the two of them never co-mingled in “news” coverage. And we for certain have to get back to the point where we could disagree without being disagreeable.

Setting examples should start with our leaders at the top, but all of us can also do our part to make sure we’re not arguing just for the sake of arguing. The old adage about God giving us two ears and only one mouth comes to mind in the midst of all this “noise” in the world right now.

We could all use the reminder… listen more, speak less.

9/11/2001 – Never forget!

Never forget what happened and never forget who we are.

Until next time,

Kenyon Gleason
NASGW President

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