Commentary

TRIMSPA, BABY! Media marginalization has hit a new low.

  • by , March 14, 2007

I cannot stand Anna Nichole Smith. I didn’t really much care for her a year ago. Celebrities don’t mean much to me, particularly celebrities like her. Good taste prohibits more detail. It sucks that her son died (rather mysteriously, I might add), but these things happen to people every day, so I wasn’t really sure why it was on my TV/in my inbox/popping up on cnn.com for more than about a day. Really, it was one of those things you shrug your shoulders about – c’est la vie. The distaste I had for her before has now swollen to disgust. I know it probably has severe implications against my everlasting soul to speak ill of the dead, but then again, I’m not really talking about her.


This one’s for you, Mr. network news director. You’re making the tough calls, trying to decide between live coverage of Kobe Bryant’s trial attire and last night’s shocking Lohan/Hilton feud home video. Here’s to the kind of man who can ignore ten-year-long multi-nation wars in Africa to air the full closing arguments of the (insert B-list name here) trial. I suppose I must respect your fortitude; it can’t be easy to walk into a board room – much as Edward R Murrow and Walter Cronkite surely did – and declare that this is news. I am sordidly happy, for their sake, that they did not live to see this.


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The twenty-four hour networks are the worst. I am far less disgusted with the broadcast networks – they can only annoy me for one hour per day, and have far less time to do in-depth coverage. In-depth coverage is the scourge of modern TV journalism. Sure, there are some times when you need to go in-depth; national events like 9/11 or war coverage spring to mind. Frankly, most things do not warrant in-depth coverage because they’re, well, not that deep. Train derails? Not that deep. Two minutes with a casualty count, then move on. National spelling bee? Hooray for you kid, you can memorize. Two minutes, with interview, move on. I don’t need long personal narratives peppered with sensational adjectives: “But along with the glit and glimmer of the label ‘National Spelling Champion’…comes heartache. The stress of the national limelight strains this unassuming suburban family to its breaking point. More of their story…after this.” Now, where’s my Peabody?


This is not to say that only the networks are at fault. The local stations must take responsibility for the idiotic stand-up. You know exactly what I’m talking about. The reporter is on camera and says something to the effect of, “We’re here live at the county building, the site of tonight’s town council meeting. As you can see from the darkened windows behind me, the representatives have all left, but this unassuming office was home to some very heated debate just a few short hours ago. Here’s ____ with more.” We then launch into several minutes of speculation about what the people in meeting may have been talking about, followed by vague discussion of the upcoming forecast and fifteen seconds of segue banter.


I see things like this and it reminds of those shirts that were popular a few years ago – they were very ordinary-looking, and simply said “CONSUME” in big block letters. This is not news. This is consumer product, cleverly packaged to look like news. Somewhere along the line, we stopped viewing the newscast as a media responsibility and started to think of it as a revenue stream. Believe it or not, there are people my age, and of every age, who have an interest in the outside world. When we see nonsense like this, we turn it off, plain and simple.


Sadly, print journalism – particularly the local paper – seems to be the only place I can still go and count on being well-informed on topics that actually matter. When people are actually trying to be concise, as opposed to trying to fill the time between commercial breaks, good journalism still sometimes results. The magic of convergence will take care of that soon. I might also add that this problem seems uniquely American. While traveling abroad, I watched a lot of BBC news. It was fantastic. I got information of actual relevance in a timely and professional manner. Did it look as polished as CNN? Maybe not. But I certainly had a lot more respect for them.


I am well aware of the ratings system. I know why the news is the way that it is. We’re just giving the people what they want. They’re choosing news like this, it’s not our fault. That’s utter crap. Step up, gather what’s left of your shattered dignity and integrity, and put on a newscast that I can respect. Then maybe, just maybe, I might watch.

4 comments about "TRIMSPA, BABY! Media marginalization has hit a new low.".
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  1. Jim O'Neal, March 19, 2007 at 11:06 a.m.

    While I agree on some of your arguments...Walter Cronkite probably won't like hearing that he's dead!!

  2. David Mattson, March 19, 2007 at 11:07 a.m.

    beautifully said. it's been said before though - it makes me think exactly which consumers of the news these moron s are 'listening to' when they plan what to deliver on the broadcasts. aren't there many more people like you and me than they realize? why is NPR so popular, for instance? Sometimes I think the majority of the broadcast news professionalss inhabit the same intellectual sphere as so many public school teachers in this country. Our schools suck in many cases because the teachers suck. The news sucks, per your point, because the newspeople suck. Expecting better, probably means a massive purge. that aint gonna happen, so I'll just keep listening to NPR and watching the bbc
    -Dave NYC

  3. Maarten Albarda, March 19, 2007 at 6:14 p.m.

    Triple Hallelujah. I am a humble guest worker in this country and I wholeheartedly, fully concur with Mike's assessment.

    Allow me to rant for a minute... We live in a global village, and what happens on the other side of the planet matters in small town USA (or anywhere else for that matter). Yet, 1010WINS, a 24 hour radio news station in NYC (where I used to live), uses a slogan that says (insert booming voice here) "You give us 20 minutes, we give you the world!" The world? My #$%%^. It is all about the four burroughs of NYC, and maybe a tiny teensy bit of national news!

    Here in Atlanta it is not much better. ALL TV and radio news shows talk about "The most news when it happens". But their collective outlook does not go much beyond the perimeter (a well known Atlanta boundary). The fact that a news show is even called that... a news SHOW. Says it all really, doesn't it.

    And how can I trust ANY news or sports anchor who, in the same breath of delivering the news is trying to convince me to buy some hair loss product, financial service or car. "This segment is brought to you by Toyota. Toyota, going places". Oh thanks - I wasn't even thinking about it but now I will go out and buy me a Toyota. Or Rogain...

    A news anchor should NEVER peddle any products - it undermines him, and it undermines the perception of his program being a serious news cast.

    Then there are all these very scary people that call themselves radio talk show hosts. I come from Holland, as you know a fairly liberal country, where both the left and the right have adequate opportunity to speak their mind in the media. I can tell you that I do not think people like Mike Levin (spelling?) or some of these other narrow minded scare mongerers would be given 1 minute of airtime, and if they would there would be public outcry over what these people are allowed to say.

    NPR? Yes, much better, thank you. But dry as a mouthful of Sahara desert sand and somewhat geriatric...

    For your sanity, let me share with you how you can follow what is really going on in the world, without having to pay any costly subscriptions...

    First destination: the BBC (www.bbc.co.uk). You can listen to and see virtually all BBC channels/stations online, and the BBC website also has a massive library of podcasts and non-stop news feeds (video and radio). We all noted that in the last week or so, the Beeb signed a deal with YouTube and are planning to launch a number of channels there as well. Quality is outstanding: real journalism, from around the world, and without even one anchor selling me ointment for piles at the same time (just another reminder... I am not a Brit!).

    And then there is the International Herald Tribune (www.iht.com). This is the only newspaper that does not cut down a rain forest a day because it only has ONE (1) section - gasp - yes, just the one. With the best from Washington Post, NY Times and some very good own journalists. Their online product is great, too.

    Finally, aggregate your personalised home page (I prefer Google, but any will do) and custom it to what you consider important. You could even RSS Anna Nicole Smith should you want to...

    So there. You just gave me 5 minutes, and I gave you a rant and the news. I feel better now :-)

  4. Shimah Akrami, April 18, 2007 at 9:37 p.m.

    While I agree with most of you with too much coverage on people / topics that do not deserve it. Good call on BBC, my first choice as well. Most of us who have lived over sea understand why we turn there. I also feel that I would rather have too much information then none at all. I like having a choice to filter what I want to hear, when I want to hear it.

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