The dilemma facing the Big Three became apparent only during the commercial breaks. Each time [anchor Bob] Schieffer disappeared from my screen, he was replaced with a parade of advertisements promising relief from one malady after another: dry eyes, blood clots, arthritis, calcium deficiency, diabetes, insomnia, toenail fungus, bad feet and high cholesterol. There was a message on where to find government information about Medicare. There was an image-building ad from a drug company. As someone who is in the very middle of middle age, I was appalled to think that I had this to look forward to in my declining years. And, of course, I realized that here was the evidence of what is really wrong with the nightly newscasts: they’re on at 6:30 p.m., a time when only the elderly can watch them. Everyone else is either commuting, eating dinner or helping the kids with their homework. That, more than anything, explains why the combined network-newscast audience has declined from about 50 million to fewer than 30 million over the past couple of decades. People work longer hours and lead more hectic lives than they did 20 years ago. The networks haven’t kept pace.
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