BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Roone Arledge died this week. He has been dutifully eulogized as a giant of modern broadcasting, first with ABC Sports, then as president of ABC News. And a giant he was. The creator of Wide World of Sports, Monday Night Football and the slow-motion replay made no less of a mark on TV news than on TV sports.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:He had his early doubters. When Arledge took the ABC News helm in 1977, critics howled that he'd stage the Wide World of News, and in fact, he did, investing resources into bureaus, budgets and most of all talent to tap into what he saw as the inherent drama news affords. He turned nightly Iran hostage coverage into Nightline. He lured David Brinkley from NBC, and he lured millions of viewers to ABC's air.
BOB GARFIELD:In a decade's time he had transformed a dimly regarded loss leader into a slick and lucrative profit center, which is when his creation began to turn on him -- and on us. Michael Eisner doesn't count Peabody awards. He counts earnings, and once the accountants could assign a value to news content, the content quickly became commodified. By the time Arledge was squeezed out in 1997, parts of his empire were already being sold for scrap. There's no way to know what would have become of ABC News had it remained a low interest item, but it's fair to conclude that when Roone Arledge died Thursday at 71, he had seen the thrill of victory and surely also the agony of defeat. [MUSIC]