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What's Wrong With the TV News

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the not-enough-capes-spaceships-and-pie dept.

Television 536

MBCook writes "Technology Review has a fantastic seven page piece titled "You Don't Understand Our Audience" by former Dateline correspondent John Hockenberry. In it he discusses how NBC (and the networks at large) has missed and wasted opportunities brought by the Internet; and how they work to hard to get viewers at the expense of actual news. The story describes various events such as turning down a report on who al-Qaeda is for a reality show about firefighters, having to tie a story about a radical student group into American Dreams, and the failure to cover events like Kurt Cobain suicide (except as an Andy Rooney complaint piece)."

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536 comments

SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890132)

_0_
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'=o='
.|!|
.| |
TV news needs more goatse [goatse.ch]

Re:SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890418)

LOL, no idea why the isolation has happened, maybe it was always this way and the media darlings are becoming aware of this.

Death

What's wrong with TV news? (5, Insightful)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890136)

I'll sum it up in one name.

Paris Nicole Spears

Seriously, I really don't give a fuck. If I did I would purchase tabloids. How about some substantive reporting on actual world events? Or if you still have time to fill, some factual information on the presidential candidates. Like, maybe some stories on what they actually believe and have a record of voting for, so the public will be more informed and can make better decisions. Not stories analyzing who is ahead by 3% in the latest poll in what states or who has the best chance of winning. That only breeds bandwagoning subject to the control of the media. This is of course exactly what they want though, which is why we will continue to see no stories with real factual content, and simply sound bites.

The internet is much better as a news vehicle because I can actually find stories with real content which complexly explore the issues. Apparently the news networks think that no one's attention span is greater than 1 minute and 30 seconds, so they mandate that no stories should be covered in depth. Occasionally there are multi-hour specials on certain things, but apart from that, there is rarely regular substantive coverage of important goings on.

Re:What's wrong with TV news? (5, Insightful)

Alexx K (1167919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890180)

What do you expect? TV is designed for the lowest common denominator. Why? It's simple. Most people don't watch TV to be educated. They watch to be entertained. Having an active mind while staring at the TV screen is an alien concept to many.

Case in point: The decline in educational content on channels such as Discovery and TLC.

Re:What's wrong with TV news? (2, Insightful)

peektwice (726616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890206)

Clearly, neither of you are in the target demographic.

Call Jon Stewart (5, Insightful)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890244)

More people under 30 get their news from Jon Stewart than any other source. Worse though is the fact that Stewart's fake news is better than the real news.

People should call into Stewart to suggest that he come back on the air and does a straight news show until the writers return.

Re:Call Jon Stewart (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890450)

He and Colbert are returning on Monday, although no one knows what format their shows will be yet.

Re:Call Jon Stewart (5, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890490)

He's coming back, and I can't wait, but I think Stewart's version of straight news would be too depressing.

What I find so ironic is that this strike knocked my two main sources of news off TV, thus reducing the amount of coverage I've heard about it to what NPR did (which has died down now that the strike has been on for so long). A few weeks ago I realized I didn't even know if the strike was over or not and I had to go look it up.

Re:Call Jon Stewart (5, Insightful)

WaltBusterkeys (1156557) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890620)

No, what's really ironic is that an article summary complaining about the lack of "serious" and "important" news on TV uses the example of a rock star killing himself as "important" news. If the point is that Britney/Paris/Nicole aren't "real" news compared to actual events in Iraq/Afghanistan/RonPaul then why is Kurt Cobain somehow so important to deserve mention in the headline? It seems like the problem is one of music taste, not importance. If the news spent entire segments on rock stars (instead of pop stars) at the expense of Iraq/Afghanistan/RonPaul news I think the author would think that's just as bad.

Otherwise, interesting article.

Re:Call Jon Stewart (2, Insightful)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890766)

No, what's really ironic is that an article summary complaining about the lack of "serious" and "important" news on TV uses the example of a rock star killing himself as "important" news.

Kurt Cobain was a vastly more important figure in the rock scene than Brintey/Paris/Nichole. Not mentioning his death would be like not mentioning the deat of Pavarotti.

The point in the article though was not that NBC should have done saturation coverage on Cobain but that it should have been covered as news. It would only be considered news if there was a tie in to some primetime show. Cobain dies in 1994, before Iraq/Afghanistan/Paul were stories of any sort.

Re:Call Jon Stewart (2, Insightful)

WaltBusterkeys (1156557) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890812)

Cobain dies in 1994, before Iraq/Afghanistan/Paul were stories of any sort

The first war in Iraq was in 1990-91. Iraq was a story before Cobain died.

Afghanistan should have been a major story in the early 1990s. The mujhadin took over the capital in 1992 [pbs.org] and paved the way for the current government.

Ron Paul wasn't a story, but Ross Perot [wikipedia.org] was.

If the complaint is that there isn't enough "hard" news or "real" news then Kurt Cobain is a terrible example. He was important to rock, but Britney is important to pop.

Re:Call Jon Stewart (4, Insightful)

rpillala (583965) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890686)

The Daily Show may be a fake news show but much of the damning parts are simply juxtaposed video clips of the same person saying two completely opposite things. That's what keeps me watching, is the memory the show seems to have about public record. So many "journalists" seem happy simply to be talking to their subjects or about their subjects that they don't call them on obvious bullshit. It's a fake news show insofar as it's not purely a news program, but it's also not as though they have actors playing Bush, Cheney, Rice, Craig, etc. in skits.

The Daily Show is returning on Monday (1/7/08) without its writers.

Re:Call Jon Stewart (4, Insightful)

donaggie03 (769758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890796)

"More people under 30 get their news from Jon Stewart than any other source. Worse though is the fact that Stewart's fake news is better than the real news." Maybe it's actually more people under 30 get their news from Jon Stewart than from any other source BECAUSE OF the fact that Stewart's fake news is better than the real news. Jon Stewart probably spends a lot more time discussing important topics than mainstream media. He might do so in a humorous way, but the content is still there.

What's wrong with nerd gonads? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890712)

"Case in point: The decline in educational content on channels such as Discovery and TLC."

Funny you should say that and talk about "lowest common denominator" because today's TLC show is about the anatomy of sex.

Anyway I don't think the problem is the Internet, but underutilization of broadband. Here's most of America with cable TV and usually a fat pipe between head-end and customer. Use your imagination on that.

Re:What's wrong with TV news? (2, Insightful)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890216)

Well, the Newshour on PBS is still decent. Not, you know, Edward R. Murrow decent, but still. 60 Minutes also occasionally does a good bit.

And there's always the Daily Show. Except when the f*%#ing writers feel like striking. Someone should let them know that "fairness" and "consideration" are secondary to my fix!

Re:What's wrong with TV news? (2, Insightful)

davburns (49244) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890424)

Not stories analyzing who is ahead by 3% in the latest poll

And failing to mention that the error margins of the poll are +/- 5%. That always bugs me.

Apparently the news networks think that no one's attention span is greater than 1 minute and 30 seconds

The target audience's attention span can never be longer than a commercial break. You might think you can get away from this by watching public broadcasting -- but then, how long are the pledge breaks?

Re:What's wrong with TV news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890444)

Hey, news stations aren't just going be noble and run informative stories for the hell of it. Showing that kind of news doesn't make them money, which is the bottom line.

Re:What's wrong with TV news? (3, Insightful)

astaldaran (1040462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890456)

Is the problem with TV News, the news itself or the audience which watches it? After all in Capitalism the, "market will choose" which shows end up coming on the air. Shows which just only spend a minute or two on a subject and seem to repeat every 20 minutes have place; like on CNN Head Line news. Shows about relatively unimportant people and events have a place, say one little light piece in the news (to take the edge off) or in the newspaper, or as someone else mentioned..the tabloids; honestly there is a reason they exist. There is also a place for in depth political analysis (who is doing how well where?); say on a political show. And the kicker there is room on TV for opinion, but not in the news (wait; isn't that all we get?) What we need is choices; choices breed the best news. When we want to catch up on what is going on; turn to the 24 hour headlines news. When we want the broader picture, we turn on the nightly 6 news (which I believe the best most unbiased one is with Brit Hume; though Wolf Blitzer is really good to he just has some reporters who seem to talk a lot). And after I know what is going on and what it all means, I can turn to an in depth analysis from some show and then get an opinion from someone like O'Reilly or Lou Dobbs (yes...his show is opinion not news...) Obviously we will never get opinion completely out of the news; but I think it is important that news agencies make the difference more apparent then it sometimes is now. AS for how we can move forward with real news when most Americans frankly don't care...well i'm not sure. This is a topic which we could discuss in a political science class for weeks.

Re:What's wrong with TV news? (5, Funny)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890588)

which I believe the best most unbiased one is with Brit Hume

I had to quote that just so I could isolated it from the rest of your post and make sure I had read it correctly.

Re:What's wrong with TV news? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890730)

When people say things like that what they really mean is "most aligned with my own idealogical slant".

Re:What's wrong with TV news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890574)

so what's your excuse for hanging out here?

In other words, TV News... (5, Funny)

Skevin (16048) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890142)

...is becoming more and more like Slashdot?

Misleading Headlines, Irrelevant Stories, Flamebaiting Comments: you heard it here first!

Solomon Chang

You forgot the dupes ... (5, Insightful)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890626)

Slashdot has nothing on dupes compared to the headline news ...

Well, so long as it involved interns and politicians. I can't remember how many times the news seemed preoccupied with Chandra Levy, Monica Lewinsky, or whatever mostly unimportant event that got covered each day with slightly new 'breaking' information. If you want that, you have to go to Digg to see what each 'breaking' website has on the latest Apple rumors.

At least Slashdot doesn't do the completely useless teasers ... 'Will we get snow tomorrow?' I'm guessing you could've told me in the time you toyed with telling us before every commercial break, making us think it's going to be on right after the commercials, but saving it for the LAST thing. I'm surprised they haven't tried 'Are tornados coming and should you run for your life? Find out next!'. Nope, we can go straight to the article, discover the article summary was completely inaccurate and/or misleading, without having to sit around for 45 minutes.

It's crap like this why I don't watch the TV news anymore. I do listen to news on the radio, and they do the same thing, but I get traffic reports every 10 minutes, which is important in the Washington, DC area -- I just don't listen to it for 2 hrs straight, or I know I'll hear the same stories repeated.

Who the hell is (5, Funny)

pigiron (104729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890148)

...Kurt Cobain?

Re:Who the hell is (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890182)

90's flannel wearing emo (back when that sort of thing was cool)

Re:Who the hell is (-1, Offtopic)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890576)

For the love of fucking GOD someone slap a +1 informative up on the parent post -I couldn't have put it better myself!

Re:Who the hell is (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890254)

I hate to say it but I don't consider celebrities to be all that news worthy. If they are around long enough like Bob Hope they become culturally very interesting but those are few and far between.
Frankly Kurt Cobain's death didn't make a lot of difference to the world sad as it was for his fans and family.

Re:Who the hell is (5, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890476)

For the most part I agree. Kurt Cobain had a decent following and was becoming very popular and influential (from what I understand). It really wasn't covered at all. You can make an argument for that (like you did, and I largely agree that celebrities shouldn't be covered). But ABC did decided to cover him... not through a real piece, or a little 1 hour documentary, but through insulting him as a joke for Andy Roony.

I get my news from John Steward, Steven Colbert, NPR, and the 'net. The first two are funny and cover a good mix of stuff. NPR does a pretty good job on the whole, with much better coverage of world events and more interesting in depth stories than I'd get from my other sources. The 'net supplements everything with tons of detailed coverage of the things that I care quite a bit about (like technology) that would include topics too esoteric for more mainstream coverage.

But many evenings I'll watch 15 minutes or so of news while I'm cooking or eating dinner. I watch NBC, ABC, or CBS. Local or national, whichever is on. It never ceases to amaze me just how BAD it is. The reporting on local events doesn't cover much, except to say there was a fire here or a robbery here. The national news tends to cover celebrity junk, or the war (which they cover very poorly, no matter which side you're on). The best thing I've seen in a long time was CBS's recent series on where our tax dollars went, and just how many earmarks and pork there was last year. But this was one little 5 minute segment on the evening news. It wasn't longer. They didn't call for action. Just a quick "congress is wasting your tax dollars, oh well."

I remember once, a few years ago, Charlie Gibson did some little piece that was probably supposed to be fluff for Good Morning America. And in the middle of the piece he just asked this really insightful hardball question to the person. It made the Daily Show because it was such a perfect "gotcha" moment. And it just makes you wonder... Charlie seems like a nice guy but if he can do that kind of reporting, why is he just doing fluff on the morning show... competing with the likes of Regis and Kelly (who don't pretend to be news).

Every now and then, I'll hear a fantastic report on NPR. It will tell me more than I ever knew about some event that I'd already heard about earlier from other outlets; and I'll gain a real understanding. It may be just some little human interest type story, but something that's actually interesting about a little town or business and what's going on there. The "Grandma Smith's cat traveled 80 miles to come back home" type stories get, at most, a 5 second mention to fill time in a group of little tidbits.

And then, once in a long time, one of the reporters on Morning Edition will say something funny. Something I didn't expect, and hilarious. Not some bad joke anyone could have written. Not some forced line. Something that's actually funny. Like a few months ago when there was some story about Moree Eels, and they broke out into a version of "That's Amore" (which got posted in the comments here on /.) that made me just break out laughing. They're willing to take a few risks now and then that no TV network will.

To say nothing about their other programming. Where is network TV's version of All Things Considered, Science Friday, Talk of the Nation, or any of NPR's other news-type programs.

At this point, watching the main networks is just kind of depressing, making me pitty how bad they have become. You'll see people like Rather talk about trying to be Cronkite, and you just wonder how little Cronkite or some of those other older authoritative voices would think of how bad things are now.

Re:Who the hell is (0, Troll)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890596)

I wasn't a fan of Kurt Cobain but I knew that he died and how. So since I found out I think they did cover that well.
I developed a real dislike for the news service back when I was about four or five when they refused to not interrupt soap operas to cover the later Apollo missions.
So I don't think that news coverage was ever that great.
The real problem is when the Democratic congress dropped the "equal time" law. At the time they felt that the news service was slanted in their favor so they wanted to make the best of it. Of course they where not ready for talk radio and the extreme right.
What we have now is so many news sources "I will not call them services" that everybody can find someone that will tell you exactly what you want to hear. We will tend to think they are the "most honest" news source. In fact it tends to be the one that just matches our bias!

I wish I knew the solution.

Re:Who the hell is (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890728)

I love public radio. During the Don Imus scandal, I believe it was PRI's "Here and Now" that I was listening to when they talked about it. You know what they did an investigative report on?

Nappy hair.

Including interviews with hair stylists in African-American communities discussing exactly what nappy hair is and what makes it different to work with than straight hair, and exploring the linguistic origins of the word "nappy".

Re:Who the hell is (0, Troll)

rovingeyes (575063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890430)

Bingo! Exactly my point. Who the fuck gives a rats ass about a stoner singer who had "issues" - big fuckin' deal. Its not like Cobain was a phenomenal singer. He can hardly sing. Granted he is way better than Britney, still does not warrant to be featured story. I bet if he died now, CNN would just dedicate a week for him. Sad indeed.

Re:Who the hell is (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890460)

It wasn't the singing, it was the songwriting. But yeah, in the grand scheme of things he really didn't matter.

Re:Who the hell is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890630)

>It wasn't the singing, it was the songwriting.

Which was as over-rated as it was incoherent. Sorry, we're not exactly talking John Lennon or even Jim Morrison here. His main influence was the shit he slammed into his veins and that was reflected in his "lyrics".

Sorry..."and nothing of value was lost".

Re:Who the hell is (5, Funny)

GaryPatterson (852699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890654)

...Kurt Cobain?

He's the guy that sang the line "I don't have a gun," and then showed us he was being ironic.

Re:Who the hell is (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890800)

Better yet, who the hell cares if the founder of the emo movement successfuly suckstarted a shotgun.

The main problem: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890152)

too many niggers.

Re:The main problem: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890296)

This is true of life in general, not just the TV news.

Mod Parent Up +1 Informative (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890500)

More niggers, more problems.

The trouble with TV (why print rules) (5, Insightful)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890230)

You can read more in one hour, than a newscaster can speak in one hour intelligibly.

So news is all soundbites.

Re:The trouble with TV (why print rules) (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890266)

Yes, but a picture is worth a thousand words... so, therefore a 30 second video clip on the news (at 30 fps) equals 900 words. I'd be pretty impressed if you could read words at that rate.

Re:The trouble with TV (why print rules) (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890318)

Actually, I meant to say it'd be worth 3000 words. Duh. ;)

Re:The trouble with TV (why print rules) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890428)

try again.

30 f/s x 30 sec x 1000 w/p (words per picture)=???

Re:The trouble with TV (why print rules) (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890556)

Damn, guess that's what I get after posting from too much insomnia this past week...

Re:The trouble with TV (why print rules) (2, Informative)

yo_tuco (795102) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890706)

"30 f/s x 30 sec x 1000 w/p (words per picture)=???"

I don't want to pick the fly shit out of the pepper, but...

That equals 900,000 frame words per picture

How about: 30 frame/sec x 30 sec x 1000 words/frame?

Re:The trouble with TV (why print rules) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890708)

You mean 30,000 (30 * 1000) words per second, or 900,000 (30 * 1000 * 30) words total for that clip?

Re:The trouble with TV (why print rules) (1)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890320)

Yes, but a large portion of the newscast is just hearing the newscasters saying stuff in English. That part is less efficient than just reading.

Clearly, the best of both worlds is interblag news which can have both text and streaming video/audio.

I personally prefer the BBC online news.

Re:The trouble with TV (why print rules) (1)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890518)

Yes, but a picture is worth a thousand words....

That's right. *A* picture is worth one thousand words. Video? Not so much, as Borat used to say.

Consider the iconic Eddie Adams photograph of a VC guerilla getting blown away (a photo which he admitted to regretting have taken, btw, as it doesn't tell the whole story.): There was a video crew rolling as well when it happened, but which do we remember?

A good photog knows that capturing one decisive moment is worth thousands of miles of useless B-roll.

Re:The trouble with TV (why print rules) (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890328)

why print rules

Print? Print is trying to become like pulp novels or tv news, cheap crap.

But you hit the heart of the problem. TV news is a newscaster talking to the camera. I want to see primary sources mostly, not someone's evidence-free analysis.

Big Media a Political Tool (4, Insightful)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890238)

The guys making decisions are few, and they are all political animals. Even the more liberal ones like Jon Stewart use their airtime to make political points. Television has become prescriptive, a way for the rich and powerful to tell us what to think. It's more noticeable in the U.S., I think, because both major parties have converging interests when it comes to issues like Al Qaeda, Iraq, etc. Big network TV in the U.S. is bordering on propaganda. I can recall one attempt by the Canadian Conservative government to play along, banning images of Canadian military caskets from the media. Thankfully there was a public outcry, and the decision was soon reversed. Unlike the Republican government, the Conservatives have a minority government and must make concessions to the Opposition on a regular basis. This is not a problem in the U.S., and I don't expect that we'll see a more empathetic viewpoint on major network television before Bush is out of office.

Re:Big Media a Political Tool (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890406)

Even the more liberal ones like Jon Stewart use their airtime to make political points

Uh, "even"? That applies to basically every mainstream newssource around.

I don't expect that we'll see a more empathetic viewpoint on major network television before Bush is out of office.

Oh, I see, you've caught the BDS. Never mind. Could you please go to the other room, while the adults have a discussion?

Re:Big Media a Political Tool (2, Insightful)

edisk1353 (321151) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890438)

If your complaint is that our TV coverage is opinionated, then I've got news for you: it's always been that way. Newspapers have long held biases. Even now, we speak of "conservative" or "liberal" papers, and in Europe there are even a good number with a communist bent. And if your complaint is that newspapers have followed their profit motive to the expense of their coverage, then research the American journalism in the run-up to the Spanish-American war. Frankly, where it is possible to make money, money will be made. For better or worse, this is how all of capitalism works.

Re:Big Media a Political Tool (4, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890624)

I don't have a problem with biased media so long as they're honest about whom they are and the audience they represent. Take Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore for example. Love them or hate them, at least you know where they stand. Unlike CNN, Fox News, or Time Magazine who claim to be unbiased but are not in fact.

Having an agenda but refusing to acknowledge it has got to be the most aggravating, shameless forms of intellectual dishonesty to grace our public airwaves.

Drive By Media indeed!

Re:Big Media a Political Tool (1)

gallwapa (909389) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890762)

Fox news doesn't claim to be unbiased. They claim to be fair and balanced. Fair like invading another sovereign country because we felt like it; balanced like the budget after committing trillions to the 'good old boys' for an illegal war's contract payouts.

Fox, and News Corp, by the order of Rupert, takes orders directly from Karl Rove (and whoever his replacement is).

Re:Big Media a Political Tool (4, Insightful)

no-body (127863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890520)

Right on!

The world is like a ship in a huge storm

- the rudder is broken, and the mast just broke also, the ship cannot be steered any more
- the captain and crew are totally drunk or stoned

and the news media are there to make the passengers think they are on a holiday cruise

Has the world gone mad? (2, Insightful)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890250)

I don't care if Nicole Ritchie had a loose bowel movement today. Or any of that "believe and achieve" bullshit. News is news. If I wanted this brand of news, I would turn on MTV.

For quite a few years now, the only place I have gone for objective reporting on real American news is the BBC and Reuters. So I suppose the world hasn't gone mad. Only American media has.

Kurt Cobain on the TV (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890264)

Did you hear Kurt Cobain was on the TV? ...and on the carpet, the walls, the furniture...

Good points! (1)

link5280 (1141253) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890270)

This is a very good article. However, I wonder if the reporters were granted more freedom on reported news content if viewership and awareness would actually change. Over the past 10 to 15 years the choices on how and when news content can be viewed has changed dramatically. I remember watching the news each evening with my Dad when I was younger. Now I just hop on the internet and find the headlines that catch my attention, I rarely watch the evening news on TV anymore. Yet the internet has about the same quality of reporting on most stories, not very well written or very in-depth. But I have the freedom to view them at anytime. Anyway, Hockenberry sums it up; producers will choose content they believe will get them the most viewers, it's all about rating and money.

The Answer is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890272)

Don't watch the news anymore. I've only watched about 2 hrs of tv per week for the last 6 years. All of a sudden, when somebody brings up stupid tabloid pap, my eyes glaze over and I simply reply "Oh, I don't watch TV. Havn't heard of that." Next conversation please!

Re:The Answer is... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890340)

People on Slashdot don't have conversations.

Very very simple to answer... (4, Informative)

yroJJory (559141) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890282)

What's wrong with TV news? It receives Nielsen Ratings. That means they are not treated as informational, but rather as entertainment and require audience share (in the eyes of those who watch the "bottom line").

And I'm not the only one who thinks this. There are papers about this very subject. [amazon.com]

Re:Very very simple to answer... (3, Insightful)

YU5333021 (1093141) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890600)

But to play devil's advocate here, what's wrong about Nielsen Ratings? After all, it tells us (to a fair degree of accuracy) what people are willing to watch and what they aren't. Turns out local news that start the program with weather alerts, sports analysis, and a human interest story, are doing a lot better than the ones that will be discussing the most recent UN resolution on global poverty or the likes. Give people what they want, and if it's celebrity death matches that they want, so be it. Internet has more than filled the information niche that was unavailable to us 10 years ago. I have never felt more informed than today.

The heartbreak comes from the fact that our common citizens are willing to settle for so much less. Have you seen the voting turnout percentages? It fits appropriately with the quality of television media as a source of any relevant information. This country is so big (population and geography wise) that we are largely detached from each other on certain levels. To be trivial for a second, all stats point to this country having a religious majority, yet I don't think I know a single person that has gone to a church since childhood, if ever. At the same time, any brand or product that wants national recognition will have to be equally appealing to my type and to those whom I may not have anything in common with. I can't blame the media for trying to do the same: appeal to as many people without alienating anyone. Thus we have reality TV shows about ex-football players who have to dance with dead celebrities in order to save us from a zombie attack!

And stay tuned to find out which popular breakfast cereal could probably give you anal leakage, and kill your mother. After the weather report, with Al.

Re:Very very simple to answer... (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890652)

I don't know about you, but given the state of TV news and American culture, low voter turnout is the only upside left. If all these misinformed idiots were voting--oh shit, they are.

Very very simple to answer...Pick mine! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890794)

"What's wrong with TV news? It receives Nielsen Ratings. That means they are not treated as informational, but rather as entertainment and require audience share (in the eyes of those who watch the "bottom line")."

I feel the same way about software. What's up with this whole "This is the year of desktop Linux"? And don't get me started on QA.

We already know this (5, Insightful)

Oddster (628633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890290)

We are once again experiencing the century-old practice of Yellow Journalism [wikipedia.org]. In fact, I would say that media's role in how the Spanish-American War [wikipedia.org] was sold to the public is disturbingly parallel to that of the invasion of Iraq, just with Karl Rove at the helm instead of William Randolph Hearst [wikipedia.org]. What we think is this new medium of "infotainment" is simply an update of sensationalism [wikipedia.org].

Unfortunately, history and civics education in the US are so atrocious that I would not expect many Americans to remember any of this, making us doomed to repeat mistakes from a hundred years ago.

Watch Network, read Shock Doctrine. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890750)

The old movie Network used to be a satire, now it is a documentary. The new book Shock Doctrine will reveal the ugly underbelly.

After you have experienced those works things like Trent Lott's recent retirement make completely repugnant sense and it will be much easier to understand what is not being reported and why.

Why cover real news... (2, Insightful)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890314)

When rehashing a poll, showing a live feed from a local station, or summarizing whatever happens to be in the latest tabloid can make the money?

Seriously, folks. Think about it.

There could be dozens of reporters, embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. Long-term. Providing up-to-date information, first-hand insight, and actually getting to know the areas they are in.

But, sadly, this would cost actual money (one could make various political arguments on each side of this as to why it is or is not covered, but let's focus on the bottom-line here). So, instead of, you know, covering these things in an in-depth fashion, the media might, every once in a while, drop in a guy for a 24-48 hour stint with the primary purpose of getting a nice quick video snap of something interesting. Whooptey-freakin'-doo. They'll spend the rest of the time sitting in hotels, out-sourcing reporting to heaven only knows who (and sometimes it appears the reporter doesn't even know). So rather than getting the look from someone who could have some expertise in the area, we get something filtered through Lord only knows who that's working as a stringer.

Then, instead of more reports, or an in-depth report, we get a short report followed by commentary from someone whose whole qualification on this matter - and all others - is the fact that he/she has an opinion on the matter. It's the same on all the networks, every last one of them. Why pay for reporters to go out and do expensive foot work when you can get short snippets from outsourced reports and then fill air time with someone blathering on about them?

There are a few good reporters on the ground in Iraq - they're called bloggers, and the reader automatically understands and accepts there's a bias to their reports. But for the most part, the mainstream television media has become a sick joke - whether it's CNN, Fox or MSNBC.

Hate to respond to my own post, but... (5, Informative)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890386)

Might I recommend highly the Newshour with Jim Lehrer to all readers?

The program features actual experts. That don't yell over each other. Each has time to form a response to questions. It's amazing, astounding, the best TV news available, period.

Re:Why cover real news... (1)

DAtkins (768457) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890540)

Hey now... I'd bet those commentators cost quite a bit of money.

Let's not forget the high quality reporting that you find on the local news stations too. I suppose that I cannot talk about other areas, but my local news sucks worse than any of the 24 hour services. They recently did - I'm not making this up - an in depth report titled "Do you need toothpaste" [spoiler]yes[/spoiler]

I absolutely hate the way their spots ads run. "Find out who Atlanta police are looking for at 11" As if this little tidbit of information is supposed to entice me any more than a simple "police are looking for a suspect in a robbery in midtown, more at 11". I've seen the guys on the scene doing live reports - I know it has to suck being out there in the winter. 9 times out of 10, I don't need him to be out there in the cold telling me what happened 5 hours ago - he can come inside.

The problem for all of this is that the people running the news agencies have become another entertainment industry, rather that what it should be, dissemination of information. I know that you win prizes for crap like the toothpaste piece - but I'd be better of learning about road closures, active court cases, or - gosh - operation updates of my local government. Hell, if you want to give me entertainment reports, tell me who is playing in my city.

I suppose it's better than when they were all owned by a few rich guys who used them as instruments of social propaganda - wait, no, it's still that way.

How do you really make a good news show that uses the internet properly? Give me the headline, the executive summary, and a link to the full article. If you want to be extra awesome, cross-index the stories with the source information - you know that research a reporter is supposed to do. Then, maybe if you have time, cross-index it with commentary articles. Actually tag articles with an event so I can follow along with the different reports coming in that all relate the the same thing. It's not hard! The news agencies do it for their internal systems already!

I was in England the other day and I was watching the news there. It still sucked, but they did have a really nice segment called no commentary that shows raw video footage without voice over narration. It was awesome. Also they had news about these things called other countries - all commonwealth countries - but other countries nonetheless. They still had commentaries though, with American commentators no less. [sigh] If you need to fill time CNN, I'm sure that Al Jazeera, Hindustan News, etc (other foreign television news) would have plenty to fill the lineup.

Also, remember after 9/11 how all the news agencies swore they were going to talk about important news again [nytimes.com]? Yeah, I didn't remember that happening either. The 4th Establishment is getting as lazy as the first 3. Bah.

printed journalism always will trump broadcast (1)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890350)

Because the networks & 24/7 news channels require viewers to stay-tuned through the commercials, they highlight the sensational and avoid the tedious. Stories that discuss the actual workings of government are commercial poison. This is a fundamental weakness of the medium of broadcast journalism.

Printed is the only hope.


Seth

Re:printed journalism always will trump broadcast (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890558)

Sadly, I'm fast losing hope in print media as well. I'm watching newspapers attempt to reclaim their audience be essentially becoming printed TV news. Our local paper, which I recall being pretty good a decade ago, is eschewing real reporting for quoting people and calling it a day. Real reporting includes quotes, but it also requires checking the speakers' facts when possible. They've cited Wikipedia several times in the past few weeks (just what I've seen), and they crib their weather stories from a Denver paper -- in spite of the fact that we have a NOAA center literally down the road a couple miles from them. (It's a local call!) The stories they run as big news seem to often be geared towards creating a furor where none legitimately exists or pandering to idiocy: we've had stories recently about "Indigo children" and "the world will end in 2012... the Mayans said so."

Honestly, it's hard to not lose hope in the face of this.

Journalism and Journalism Majors (5, Interesting)

the Dragonweaver (460267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890376)

I have worked in and around newsrooms from college on and I know, firsthand, where much of the problem lies. Journalism, that is, the finding and reporting of facts, has little to do with a journalism major, which is primarily interested in "the proper form." As the article says, "the emotional center," or, more specifically, an insulated and insular group of people attempting to capture the attention of the audience.

There was a study done on mid-level news markets about eight or nine years ago, and what they found is that reporters have a lot in common with one another. They tend to rent, not to buy. (This is quite understandable, as "two weeks notice" doesn't happen in news; more often a person finds out of Friday that they don't need to come back on Monday.) They tend to live in the city rather than suburban or rural areas. (Again, understandable given the commute.) They tend to be single rather than married (stability issues again) and use certain services more than others-- transit, fitness centers, and so on. The upshot was that the necessary living patterns for reporters-- again, not big-city reporters, but mid-market types-- meant both that a certain point of view was attracted to the lifestyle, and that the point of views of the people involved would necessarily change.

And that viewpoint-- we're not talking political here, though it does play a role-- agrees with 2% of the wider US population. Two percent.

Or in other words, the viewpoints of 98% of the population are foreign to the average reporter. Moreover, the average reporter is your typical person, which by and large means the vast majority of them are, basically, lazy. How many of you just get through your day, doing the basic minimum that your job requires? Well, imagine what that's like as a reporter, when you don't have somebody breathing down your neck to report the facts, but instead have them breathing down your neck to "find the emotional center." That reporter's going to find the emotional center, and is almost certainly going to do so using a mental template (Insert Issue A into Slot B and add Cute Kid/Pet/Quip at end.) You end up with lazy reporting.

Lazy reporting gets you those stories about farmers that always seem to imply that they must be hicks, or slow, or obsessed with "weird things" because they aren't smart/hip/normal enough to move to the city, like "real people." Or the ones that as what [X racial group] thinks about a subject, as if a vast group of people who share a few alleles must have similar opinions. Or, in the most common template of them all, the good little underdog against the evil corporation/city council/religious group.

Why do I get my news online? Because a well-done story, linked back to source documents and complete transcripts, is yards and away from "San Francisco tiger mauls two and kills one; blood and guts at eleven" (past teasers and grainy footage and the obligatory Horrified Bystander.) I know what news is, and I don't confuse it with reality-entertainment.

Re:Journalism and Journalism Majors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890488)

Best reply to the article so far... further up we have people randomly railing about Bush and Karl Rove, and just below this someone says that the problem is that the CIA controls everything. So this article isn't quite attracting the best Slashdot has to offer. (yes, I Must Be New Here, I know...)

Anyway, great reply.

Re:Journalism and Journalism Majors (1)

Zibblsnrt (125875) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890594)

I'm not sure I buy into the idea that "single" is a "viewpoint," at least to the point where it (as you seem to imply; feel free to correct me) makes their work suspect or flawed.

If you start pulling out enough attributes to describe any career that involves more specialization than, say, entry-level retail, you're likely to find out they "disagree" with an enormous chunk of the population anyway. After a certain point it's kind of appropriate to say "yes, and so what?" If you gave one of those other 98% the same job (and, assuming, a similar set of technical and theoretical skills), I'd be surprised if the same type of reporting, or at least one which rhymed with it, didn't result. (I'd draw parallels with bloggers or something, but my thrown-object insurance has expired.)

The guy in TFA implies - well, less that than states - that at least at the level of the big networks there's some explicit pressure to produce that kind of reporting, either because it's safe politically or because it's entertaining or because it attracts advertisement viewing units or whatnot. Have you encountered that at all at the level you're at? If not, do you think it's because it's not there, or because there might be less pressure to do so, given smaller/more secure/etc audiences at regional or local levels?

I have generally noticed that the local newspapers tend to make me considerably less stabby than national newspapers, news television, etc., even taking into account the chunk of them that comes off the major newswires. Then again, I might have simply gotten lucky where I'm at; I dunno.

Re:Journalism and Journalism Majors (1)

defile (1059) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890702)

I have generally noticed that the local newspapers tend to make me considerably less stabby than national newspapers, news television, etc., even taking into account the chunk of them that comes off the major newswires. Then again, I might have simply gotten lucky where I'm at; I dunno.
Local newspapers make me much more stabby since they don't seem to believe in proofreading.

Re:Journalism and Journalism Majors (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890650)

-- Anecdote_flag -- Senior year of college, this girl we knew came up to a big table of folks at lunchtime. She said she was writing a story about seniors being nervous about "finding a job in this economy". I don't have to tell you what's wrong with this picture (cherry-picking data for sob stories... and from friends!), but it turned out that NONE of us had a story to give her. We all had a plan, or an actual job lined up, and if we didn't then we weren't worried about it. So she stalked off huffy, and kept looking for someone to back-up her views.

It is worth noting that our group was composed mainly of biology majors. Apparently this journalism chick was worried about her own job prospects, and for very good reasons.

Yeah, read this yesterday (4, Interesting)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890380)

A pretty good piece.

But it's not new. You can go back to Aleister Crowley complaining about the press (and he was a "celebrity" who constantly ended up in the press) being a bunch of hacks with an agenda - and that was back in the late 1800's. Hitler said the same thing except he blamed it all on the Jews.

Some years back former CIA director William Casey publicly said that ALL the mainstream media was either owned (through fronts) or controlled by the CIA. He wasn't joking when he said it.

I see nothing on the air to discredit that statement. Quite a few people have pointed out that large numbers of (supposedly) "ex"-CIA analysts are doing the writing and editing for most of the major media - even including some of the (supposedly) left wing "alternative" media. The excuse is that CIA analysts are good at producing concise, condensed recaps of analytical material - which makes them great journalists.

Except as General Gogol said, "Nobody ever leaves the KGB."

And once you get beyond the CIA, you've got corporate interests - and beyond, corporate stupidity - and beyond that, personal incompetence and stupidity.

How "news" could survive that chain of barriers without being completely useless is beyond me.

Look at today - we've got a bit of "news" coming out of India that supposedly Benazir Bhutto was shot with some kind of laser gun!

Right. I'll buy that for a dollar. More disinformation to confuse the matter, so that anybody who thinks she was killed by the Pakistani government looks like a "conspiracy nut".

They have to sell commercials (3, Insightful)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890440)

What's wrong with TV news? They have to sell commercial time, so they air only the most sensational stories. Or the spice real news up to be sensational in order to sell commercial time. What's wrong is they claim to be in the business of providing news when they're really in the business of selling commercial time to advertisers. And the need for many viewers to watch these commercials are the reason for the sensational news.

Slashdot is about as guilty. See repeated stories of "bricking" where no devices were irrecoverably harmed, that is, "bricked".

The medium (TV) itself creates a bias too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890544)

What I didn't see mentioned in the article is that the television medium itself appears to create a bias. There is a limit to people's attention span which imposes a limit on the length of a news bulletin and thus on the length and amount of stories. Also, television is an inherently visual medium. When I compare the stories from television with those from the internet or the newspapers, I always find that the bulletins on television always skip over those stories that either don't have a strong visual component or cannot be adequately explained in less than about three minutes. Perhaps television is just not the best medium for news.

Show over substance (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890562)

JibJab had a pretty good piece about it, What we call the news.

News, or rather, reports about events that moved the world or had some serious impact for national and international developments, got replaced by patched together stories about some celebrities doing some crap. Now, what kind of "news" is that? What kind of "information" is that? Who the fuck cares whether some blonde bimbo shits into the pool of her ex? But we don't get to hear that some countries in Africa are fighting over their border, which can and does have some impact in our lives, even if it only leads to more expensive coffee.

Sit down for the next news and watch carefully what you get to hear. How much is about politics, how much about technology, how much about tabloid news (i.e. celebrities and other petty, meaningless, pointless and mindless rubbish)? You'll notice that the last category takes up a sizable portion if not the majority of the "information" you get.

Then, watch politics closely. How much is national, how much international? And how much of the national news is more than thinly veiled election advertisment?

How much is actually information, and how much is just something "inciting", something to speak to your heart rather than to your mind?

That's what's wrong with the news. It's not about information anymore.

Re:Show over substance (1)

drspliff (652992) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890758)

I get a pretty good idea of the difference, but until seeing some of the worst moments of FOX (e.g. blatant neo-con suckups) I only really thought the news channels were a bit shallow.

For example (whats on now):
* FOX - Caucus countdown - and has been for ages. Dumbing it down quite nicely.
* CNN - Fairly well rounded comparison of the different candidates, fairly blatant focus on how evangelical christianity makes some candidates better people (ahaha...)
* CNBC - Market trends today - as usual.
* BBC - 5 minutes on the US elections, stuff from Kenya and price of oil ($100 a barrel).
* Bloomberg - Elections again...
* CBS News - Uhh... elections...

Only CNBC and BBC seem to be covering anything other than the elections, weird. But yeah I very much agree with you, most of it seems to be confined to US news channels - but I still consider TV news to be far less reliable or in-depth compared to just getting it yourself from 3 or 4 different sources - unless you want a quick 10 minute summary.

It's off the air. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890566)

That's what's wrong with it. The writers' strike has taken my daily dose of not quite fake news [thedailyshow.com] off the air. Fortunately the wait will be over next Monday.

There is some hope in Australia (5, Interesting)

kamatsu (969795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890662)

Here in Australia, we have one network that is government funded and does not fall victim to any form of sensationalism.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission, ambiguously referred to as the ABC, is entirely funded by the government and therefore has no interest in ratings. The news and current affairs coverage is usually top-notch, although occasionally it demonstrates a slight left-wing bias.

I switch to Channel Ten, and I see Sandra Sully cutting to some recycled footage while talking about some cloning technology, and concluding the story with "Of course, human cloning is still many years away." Then, they use computer effects to duplicate Sandra Sully, and the two Sandras say in unison.. "or is it?".. followed by 15 minutes of someone rambling on about "Entertainment News", followed by a cut to the loud and annoying weatherman who spends more time advertising charities than talking about the weather, then cut back to Sandra Sully who will engage in some useless banter with the sport guy. And the sports report is just a veiled advertisement for the sports programme they have on later that night, and then they do some "Australian Idol" news, and finish up to pictures of the beach.

ABC is at least a safe haven of real journalism. I'm not even sure the people working at Channel Ten are even journalists.

Ob. Con Air (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890674)

Cameron Poe: My first guess would be... a lot.

This is so horrible... (1)

rampant mac (561036) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890696)

"...and the failure to cover events like [the] Kurt Cobain suicide (except as an Andy Rooney complaint piece)"

This is terrible, but the radio station where I lived at the time poked so much fun at the death of Kurt Cobain, that, well... the announcer went something like:

"AND NOW... another DOUBLE SHOT weekend of NIRVANA!" and then they'd play two Nirvana songs back to back. Man that still cracks me up.

Univision (1)

Nudo (1118587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890710)

This is why I watch Univision (the Spanish Channel). At least they know their language AND English. This way I don't have to deal with pointless US stories about anorexic heiresses and the like. There's also PBS.

Kurt Cobain Suicide importance (3, Insightful)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890720)

Sorry but the failure to cover that story was pretty much right on. It wasnt of any significant importance. I was a fan of his but even can realize the fact that it was pop icon news and nothing more.

To be brutally honest ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890726)

I have no idea what's wrong with television news today. All I know is, I stopped watching it about twenty years ago because of what was wrong with it then.

Way, way, waaaay too late (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 6 years ago | (#21890736)

Portals like CrooksandLiars and Buzzflash (and, of course, /.) offer a concentration of relevant news that give any single web site, much less the boob tube, a run. Face it, Katie's legs just aren't that good anymore and the dimples are looking pretty cynical.

Greg Louganus? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21890748)

I am confused! Only FAGGOTTTTS have HIV how does it get to breat milk?
Interested in being an editor? Email me: ben@macslash.org or bstanfield@gmail.com

-- Ben Stanfield Executive Editor @ MacSlash
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