Steve Capus: Continual Success in a Digital Era

The media industry is and will continue to be a highly competitive and divided industry. (Turrow, 2011, p. 171) It is now common for organisations such as news media to effectively get their target audiences to interact with their content, by using many different platforms. When it comes to globalisation, companies need to work with a “new mindset” and evolve with the times. (Turrow, 2011, p. 171)

This media biography will discuss the four concepts of Globalisation, Convergence, The Public Sphere and the Fourth Estate and how it relates not only to the media career of Steve Capus, but of the future of news and mass-media production in General.

Steve Capus is a prominent American Journalist who currently works for CBS as the Executive Producer of the CBS Evening News. Capus was born on October 4th, 1963 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and graduated from Temple University in 1986 with a bachelor of Journalism. (CBS News, 2017)

Capus has worked in news media for over twenty-five years with vast experience with multi-platform media. He has worked extensively as a producer, news gatherer and former president of NBC News. Currently, Capus has helped CBS News win the best ratings of the decade for the 2015-2016 television season. (CBS News, 2017)

Capus is an important role-model in the contemporary media world, even though he comes from an era where a lot of present-day technology had not yet been created. For that reason, I, like other people who grew up at a time when the Internet was either non-existent or still developing, can relate to him as a leader who embraces change.

The internet age has come at a time where a new generation has been born into it, but older generations have had to adapt to these new and innovative technologies. Capus has been successful in all roles he has led within the TV news environment because he was able to change with the times, and helped his team broaden their audience by embracing the new developments of communication to make his networks hugely successful. (CBS News, 2017)

Capus, during his career with NBC News, helped this organisation break into new and revolutionary media platforms such as mobile and digital developments and websites. He also helped to target specific cultural and racial demographics such as the American Hispanic and African-American communities through web-based content directed at engaging these audiences. (CBS News, 2017)

These are some of many examples throughout Capus’s career which demonstrate how the concept of globalisation and media convergence applied to his career, especially since he started back in the early 1990s when the whole notion of the “Internet Age” was not yet fully established.

On reflecting on his career as the head of NBC News, Capus wrote that in the twenty plus years spent with the network, he saw many historical events and initiatives that he had collaborated on including the launch of MSNBC on cable, and the “birth of online news coverage.” (Byers, 2013) Many of these media platforms did not exist back in the 1980s and with the continuance of technological advancements, media outlets such as Newspapers and television have seen a steady decline, as online media and internet-based content becomes more affordable, readily accessible and distributed to a wider, more targeted audience. (Turrow, 2011, pp. 159-160)

The world’s population is getting larger and with that becomes the potential for millions of new global consumers. Over the past thirty years, the world has seen a burst of new mass media outlets and platforms such as online forums, blogs, social media sites, you-tube, computers, tablets and smart phones. (Turrow, 2011, pp. 16-17)

Due to the innovations of such industries and the mass productions of media content, it has become much easier for large corporations such as those directed by Capus to get their message across to millions of people globally.

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As quoted by Capus, “The hardest part of the job is the quest for relevance recognising that news consumption has evolved and will evolve tomorrow and the next day.” (Byers, 2013)

Part of the reason that Capus’s career has been so successful, is his ability to adapt with the times. He has led his team to use the Internet as a means of ensuring the company he works for can use digital convergence to encourage and blur media boundaries by producing and distributing media to engage the audience and keep them interested and interactive.

“We have re-imagined and re-invested in this news division, expanded our portfolio of platforms and extended our reach.” (Byers, 2013)

NBC, according to Capus has not only grown as a reputable news organisation with high ratings and consistent profits, but it has become a powerful online force. (Byers, 2013)

However, like all media, commercialisation has its downside. The fourth estate is generally defined as the belief that the press acts like a ‘watch dog’ in legitimising the relationship between the media and the public and the role required by journalists to report and monitor potential abuses of power by the government and businesses, and holding those at fault accountable. (Turrow, 2011)

The continuing significance in an ever-changing social landscape is uncertain especially when money and bias come into play. (Conboy, 2004)

In 2010, NBC News had generated three-quarters of a billion dollars of combined profits, with a third coming from MSNBC, and almost 100 million cable-television subscriptions, under the helm of Capus. (Weprin, 2010)

“Because of mass media industries and their abilities to mass produce media content, millions of people within the United States and around the world can receive the same messages within a fairly short time.” (Turrow, 2011)

Capus has said himself in a memo made public and obtained by Politico in an article written on his career with NBC, that “It’s not easy leading a legacy TV News brand through the digital revolution” (Byers, 2013)

“A press whose finances are based in circulation and advertising revenues has, in practice, experienced several distinct threats to the independence and serious purpose required of a “Fourth Estate” role.” (Hampton, 2009, pp. 6-7) Capus’s job as a television news media producer in the fourth estate, like many media organisations is questionable. Corporate media focus on ratings and profits primarily to keep them relevant in an ever-changing society. When these pressures focus on advertising and political targets, bias has and will always come into focus, as political favour, and the presentation of news to fit a certain business agenda can make the purpose of the fourth estate challenging and misleading.  (Calcutt, 2011)

Capus has also experienced many controversies in his career, but was still considered a ‘highly regarded leader’ by his former boss Patricia Fili-Kushel and other industry peers. (Burrough, 2015)

With focus set on profitability, Capus came under scrutiny and embarrassment for the NBC’s Today Show failing to observe a minute’s silence in remembrance of the September 11 Terrorist attacks, instead choosing to broadcast a celebrity interview. (Burrough, 2015)

Critics might argue that celebrity or human interest stories may have been more useful in framing genuine public issues or interest regarding the public sphere ideal. (Habermas, 1989) However, this is a weak example if at all to suggest that this was the reason for The Today show broadcasting the story. It is also important to note that this was the only program out of all the NBC shows run by Capus at the time to have done this, and he did apologise later for this mistake. (Burrough, 2015)

Capus primarily worked behind the scenes but there were many conflicts from within the team that caused division, one being that his relationship with his boss was not very good. He wrote in his resignation memo to his staff that “working in network news is not a solitary pursuit.  It is the ultimate ‘team sport’ in which the success is derived from the collective performances of remarkable people united in purpose and dedication” (Kaplan, 2013)

In conclusion, Capus as a role-model for industry professionals is highly regarded as he worked hard to embrace the technological evolution of digital media to bring success and continued relevance for his company. As an individual, Capus might not have sparked a lot of public discussion, but a greater number of people are now able to comment on issues relating to news stories and content produced by his company via the multi-media platforms that have now been established to enable increased user-friendly interactive audience participation such as Twitter, Facebook and website forums.

References:

Burrough, B., 2015. The inside story of the civil war for the soul of NBC News.. [Online]
Available at: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/04/nbc-news-brian-williams-scandal-comcast
[Accessed 24th April 2017].

Byers, D., 2013. President Steve Capus Leaving NBC News. [Online]
Available at: http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2013/02/president-steve-capus-leaving-nbc-news-155892
[Accessed 22nd April 2017].

Calcutt, A. &. H. P., 2011. The fragmenting public.” Journalism Studies: A Critical Introduction.. Hoboken: Routledge.

CBS News, 2017. Steve Capus. [Online]
Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/team/steve-capus/
[Accessed 25th April 2017].

Conboy, M., 2004. Journalism: A critical history. London: Sage.

Habermas, J., 1989. The structural transformation of the public sphere. Cambridge: Polity.

Hampton, M., 2009. The fourth estate ideal in journalism history: In S. Allen (Ed.) The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism. Hoboken: Routledge.

Kaplan, D., 2013. NBC News President Steve Capus Resigns after 8 years as tenure is marred by ‘Today’ show decline in recent years.. [Online]
Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/nbc-news-president-steve-capus-resigns-article-1.1253138
[Accessed 25th April 2017].

Turrow, J., 2011. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 4th ed. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Weprin, A., 2010. MSNBC proves the power of cable. [Online]
Available at: http://www.adweek.com/tvnewser/msnbc-proves-the-power-of-cable/24240
[Accessed 23rd April 2017].

Title Steve Capus Source: Variety. Image by: unknown.

Secondary Steve Capus: Source: CBS News. Image by: CBS News