Monday, January 28, 2008

Warning, this Newscast May be Dangerous to Your Health

As a PR person, I am probably not supposed to say this out loud. It’s the kind of thing we say only among friends. But I haven’t kept it a secret. So it’s not really a confession when I reveal that I can’t stand TV news.

As a PR person, I am supposed to keep track of what’s being covered on local news. I’m supposed to know who’s reporting for what station.

But when I watch, I get so angry – angry about the sensationalism, about the violence, about reporters shoving microphones in the faces of people who are grieving or in the midst of some personal tragedy. And I get angry at the lack of thoroughness that reporters are forced to comply with.

As a mother of young children, it is easy for me to get out of my news-watching obligation. There is no argument that TV news is not healthy for young children.

So imagine my dilemma a few days ago, when my first-grader’s homework assignment included watching the weather report on TV. We turned on the 9:00 news hoping they would touch on the weather at the start of the newscast. (Yes, I realize the 9:00 news is Fox, but I wasn’t going to keep my child up later for the 10:00 news options.)

As the anchors started running down the stories they would be covering, one announced: “Woman found chopped up in her front yard!”


I’m not picking on the reporters themselves. They are part of a system that is driven by powerful outside forces while at the same time being critical to our democratic society. So, yes, it’s important to tell the bad news as well as the good. And yes, there is a lot in this world that is not pretty. I understand that.

But come on.

We can do better than this.


Bryan Person said...

There are few experiences in life worse than watching TV news -- and local TV news in particular (I don't mind some of the cable shows, actually).

How about:

* Overly sensational and negative?
* Stories that last about 10-15? seconds, with sound bites lasting 5 seconds or fewer?
* Uncomfortable banter between news anchors and weatherman/woman?
* The silly weathermen/women? standing-in-rain/snowstorm reports?
* All of the whoosh sound effects?
* Video news releases (you'll see them often in health segments) that were obviously produced outside of the local message?

I could go on and on. These shows are so scripted, dumbed down, and trying to appear to the voyeur in all of us. I can seldom last more than a couple of minutes with one of these newscasts without shouting or wanting to throw a shoe at the television.

So you had it just about right, Christie!

Anonymous said...

Amen, Christie. As somebody who left the business for many of the reasons you stated, I agree with your point that it is not the reporters themselves. Many in the TV business are just as frustrated by the lack of quality content. Unfortunately, its not the journalists calling the shots.