Commentary

Reader Comment of the Week

  • 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.

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