As a part of that generation that grew up with the evening news as it first developed on television I find it hard to watch what attempts to pass as broadcast journalism today. What scant little I get merely wets my appetite only to be left thirsting for more. The so-called soft news that often looks much like the commercials that too frequently intervene are aimed at an infantile mentality better suited for some of the more mundane tripe we find taking up space on cable channels. Do I really need to be made aware that a middle school in the next county or across the state is attempting to raise funds so they can send their band to the Rose Bowl parade? Does my valuable time need to be wasted over someone else’s dirty laundry and socially intolerable personal behavior?
It doesn’t make much sense to portray these as news programs anymore. Why not just blend in what little news the networks and local stations are willing to throw at us in the existing format of the TODAY show or GOOD MORNING AMERICA and be done with it? That’s pretty much what these shows have become; an entertainment venue.
To make matters worse, when weather patterns are above or below the norm they take the lead in what is supposed to be NEWS time. Yes, there is a ton of snow or the weather is sweltering, but for god’s sake man, make that part of your weather report. News flash! It gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer. When it is a little colder or hotter than normal during these seasons I don’t expect that to be news worthy. On the other hand, if weather patterns and climate change have adversely affected mankind’s social and economic routines, THAT’S News! A serious discussion on global warming would be a welcome contribution too as opposed to one extreme shouting down another between agenda-oriented loud-mouths.
I understand that the traditional morning and evening news time slots have to compete with 24-hour cable news that have evolved over the last decade. But wake up and smell the coffee station owners. You’re losing market share to the cable creations that are inundating television. Besides, corporations own the networks now and they’re not going to let real journalism be displayed before the public if it affects stock holder dividends. Their hand in the evening news format became apparent in the 1980’s. The gritty work of investigative journalism was becoming unprofitable so bottom line interest wound up over-riding the real news the public had been accustomed to.
And yet there is a culture out there that is still drawn to these so-called news programs. Some feel they still offer a semblance of coming news of the day prior to heading for work and a recap of events they thought would be important after the workday ended. But gone are the serious and often scholarly faces of Cronkite, Huntley, Brinkley, Jennings and Brokaw from the 3 major networks. And though the new breed of anchors of Williams, Couric and Sawyer have been raised in the broadcast news culture, much of their presentations are less hard news and more infomercial/human interest stories. The new corporate owners didn’t want the serious business of the world to be a turn-off to what they believe to be a low-attention span audience.
Okay, so I am getting up in years. It’s a brave new world and the next generation is setting the standard for what airs on TV. But I do represent a large segment of society (for at least the next decade or so) and I no longer have the patience to sit in front of the tube for 30 minutes in the evening anymore anticipating that I will get 22 minutes of news. Nor do have to tolerate the silly back and forth of Ken and Barbie behind the desk of the local news broadcast with occasional and time-wasting exchanges with the weather guy or girl.
For the few brief minutes that essential news is conveyed I could better use that time to research critical matters on the Internet or even some of the more cerebral cable programs that go after the meat of the story. As for that conditioned reflex that still commands me to attend to my news viewing habits of previous decades, all I can say is thank God for PBS with its News Hour, Front Line, Wall $treet Week and Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. If they can just hang in there until I pass on to the afterlife my remaining years will be that less disruptive.