On September 11, 2001, on the streets of New York City, a young, petite, female Pakistani producer could be seen walking around with a camcorder and talking to passersby in the aftermath of one of America's greatest tragedies. Almost instantly, WWTI-TV in Watertown, New York started receiving an onslaught of calls: "Pull her off the air. We don't want a terrorist telling our news."
Twenty years later, Hena Doba is a top news anchor with a stunning career as a former national correspondent for CBS News, a live reporter with the New York Stock Exchange, an adjunct professor at Capital Community College and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, and, more recently, a host for Cheddar News -- a young streaming news channel that is starting to compete with the Big Three.
With the proliferation of social media, particularly the revolutionizing debut of TikTok, cable news is quickly crumbling beneath the rising popularity of streaming. Just five years ago, when Doba left CBS to join Cheddar, she admits that she took a risk. But now, she considers it "the best decision I ever made."
This is mostly due to the creative control she now has with selecting stories, interviewing guests, and even speaking a certain way. According to Doba, Millennials and Gen-Zers are less than impressed with the neutral North Atlantic tone that professional reporters train for years to obtain. And while legacy networks are concerned about mathematically preserving a certain ratio of representation by, for instance, pairing a minority reporter with a white reporter, Doba says younger viewers don't care -- two Brazilians could be sharing the screen, and no one would be counting fingers.
The audience of the future is also less likely to flip on the 8 a.m. news when they can scroll through Reels, memes, and other quick bursts of information at any time of the day. As Jack Shafer puts it, streaming "allows the viewer to customize his experience the same way he can browse a newspaper or a website." If that doesn't convince you, take it from statistics: According to Zippia, an estimated 4.9 million Americans will cut cable in 2022. And from 2015 to 2020, U.S. streaming service revenues have increased by 340 percent.
While there is no question that streaming is the medium of the future, cable news still holds its ground when it comes to the big bucks. How can streaming channels operate sustainably? According to Doba, the primary source of revenue for Cheddar and other streaming-style services is advertising. Another possibility, as Shafer points out, is subscriptions (à la Netflix and Hulu). The real trick is tailoring the ads and subscription options to the target demographic.
When it comes to the news, the next generation is looking for something more. With the plethora of divergent information at our fingertips, viewers are increasingly skeptical -- for good reason. "People don't know who to trust anymore," says Doba. She believes this downgrade in reporting is largely due to the dark side of social media, where followers are more important than actual knowledge and expertise. "It's a dangerous precedent for journalists," she says. "I hope there's more context and insight than just hiring somebody with four million TikTok followers."
The future of news will require more than a million-figure following or the momentary lure of tabloids and scandals. With the surplus and inevitable cheapening of information and entertainment, the next generation is more quickly disenchanted with superficial intrigues. So while the vehicle is streaming, the fuel is authenticity. For more on media valuations, see Veristrat.