Friday, 10 July 2009

The Press

TV snooze

Alarmed by a stabber-on-the-loose, Fillyjonk looks to the “local” newscast for more information:

Oh, you might be relieved to know that Michael Jackson is still dead.  And that his family is still fighting over custody of his kids.  And that that NFL player was killed by the girlfriend he was cheating on his wife with, because she suspected he was cheating on her with someone else.  Oh, and OH NOES OBESITY! More Americans are fat than ever were before.  And the poor economy is leading more people to abandon pets in shelters.  Oh, and if you live alone, you’re lots more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, apparently.


What I WANT to know is this: Is it safe for me to leave my house, or will I be set upon by someone with a knife?

Not a WORD breathed of that.  Then they shifted to a segment advertising a local “oxygen bar” (the heck?).

So, I took a deep breath, opened the door, walked to my garage, and got my car out.  Obviously I was not stabbed or I would not be writing this.

But it FRUSTRATES me: is not the point of having a “local” channel to broadcast news that is happening “locally”?  If I wanted to hear extended speculation on Jackson’s estate, or discussion of 20 year olds who date married football players, or scaremongering health news: well, there’s CNN, and CNN headline, and MSNBC, and Fox News, and I think a couple of others?

So I don't know.  I felt the same way a couple of years ago when we were having regular escapes from the local county jail (which is about 7 blocks from me the opposite direction of where the stabbing this morning was).
Real reporting is hard, and one dirty little secret of television news is that, despite all the trumpeting of “live, local, and first,” stations have never had the manpower to do it properly.[1]  (It’s a paradox: The staff is so pressed to produce x minutes of material every day that they don’t have the time for digging into complex stories.[2])

The fluff gets added for a number of reasons.  It’s not (particularly) time-sensitive, it’s predictable (so no surprises in the production process), and it’s cheap(er).[3]  Plus, there are still a few stations that operate under the misconception that women aren’t interested in hard news.

And, of course, the cheapest part of the news is the chat across the anchor desk.


Via: CGH
[1]  Plus, broadcast news departments have always relied on the local newspaper to tell them what the (local) news is.  (A practice that’s becoming less reliable, given today’s shrinking newsrooms.)

[2]  There’s the old saw that the ideal TV news story is a fire: It stays in one place, continues for long enough for the mobile unit to get there, and yields lots of spectacular images, just for pointing the camera.  Car chases also qualify, provided the station has a helicopter.

[3]  There are even advocacy groups/PR firms/advertisers/government agencies who will provide complete “reports” (or just visuals, ready for local narration) covering their pet “issues.”

Posted by: Old Grouch in The Press at 19:20:32 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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