Wald: A New Symbol?

Marketwatch’s Jon Friedman writes about the significance of Jonathan Wald leaving CNBC…

So why should you give a hoot about Wald? For that matter, why should anyone outside the clubby world of television news?

You should care about this development if you care about the state and future of the media. The Wald story is a defining moment. You can call it, with apologies to author Malcolm Gladwell, the tipping point of the news industry.

CNBC put a line in the sand for all media companies. It’s sending a message to the world that it wouldn’t pay up to keep Wald, one of the brightest executives around.

People in the TV-news business tell me a sea change is coming in how the industry’s stars will be compensated. It will extend beyond business channels like CNBC throughout all of television news. On-air reporters and anchors may seek long-term contracts at reduced wages, instead of trying to cram all the money they can into one-year deals.

Previously, they wouldn’t have worried as much about job security, since they felt they could just go to work for the TV station across the street. Now good jobs are likely to be scarce.

What this means to the public is that journalism quality is going to sink. TV stations will try to hire younger, less experienced, less sophisticated news professionals as a way to keep costs down.

Um, what do you mean “will try”? Anyone who’s been reading the trades the past couple of years or so is already seeing this happen. It’s even happening at the national level, particularly at NBC.

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