Or You Could NOT SUCK

News is so over:

The fact is that I think most Americans probably already know pretty
much what’s happened by the time they get home at night, with radio and
the Internet and iPods. So at 6:30 p.m., they don’t want to sit in
front of television for a half hour and have someone tell them what
they already know.

The Internet and iPhones keep interfering with stuff, don’t they? Plus radio. Radio’s been screwing things up starting with FDR. I mean, MAN.

You know, there’s an easy way around this. JUST DO SOME HARD NEWS. I’m not picking on this dude, he’s retired, and it’s not his fault, but this is the thinking: Death is inevitable so we should sit here and wait for it to happen. Um, HELL NO. There is simply no way on earth that every American, even one with the Internet jacked directly into his brain stem, knows everything about everything. I am tethered to the Internet from the minute I get up in the morning to the minute I pass out at night and I am telling you, I miss major stories all day long. Mostly because I’m making cat macros.

But I don’t turn on the news to find out what I’ve missed because the news isn’t telling me what I’ve missed. Instead I’m getting in-depth investigations into what moisturizers work the best, scary stories about the latest product that will kill your children, health segments about weight loss or botox or boobs, blatant celebrity worship (I get that John Cusack is cool and cute, but can we not treat him like he’s Candy-Coated Jesus, already?) and rip-and-read.

And that’s the highlight. The day I saw Charlie Gibson introducing a video of a lion messing with some wildebeasts or wild boars or whatever as newsworthy because “it’s spreading like wildfire … on the Internet …” I knew it was just over.

These are all choices. They’re choices cowardly executives and complacent journalists make, every day, and the resulting choice of consumers to flee TV and newspapers and even radio in droves isn’t the fault of newly available delivery systems. It’s the fault of TV and newspapers and radio to fail to maintain interest in the information they provide. Hell, it’s the failure to provide information at all.

People would gladly sit in front of the television for an hour every night if they felt they were getting something out of it. If they were being informed, riled up, calmed down, made richer and wiser and more connected by the stories they were seeing. The problem is that in order to get that kind of reaction you have to be willing to do stories that aren’t going to be yawned over by everybody. You have to be passionate, and interested in your environment, and invested in the betterment of the world. That will piss people off and it will upset them and they’ll tell the focus group directors they don’t like you anymore.

And you have to be willing to look the consultant who brings you this news in the face and say, “So what? Go find a knob to turn. Make yourself useful, you simple-minded garden gnome.” And then go about your day whistling. The will to do good work shouldn’t be dependent on there simply being no other alternative for readers and viewers. It should be able to create something that would withstand the test of technology.

Mourning the death of hard news? Go do some. You don’t even have to have a TV studio anymore.

Via Romenesko.


5 thoughts on “Or You Could NOT SUCK

  1. Another thing I’d add: “6:30.” I don’t usually get home before 6:30. I don’t know a lot of people who do. If Idid, the first thing I’d do is probably make dinner. The extended hours of the American work week, plus the decline in stay-at-home spouses since Mudd’s prime, means that fewer people will be watching network news broadcasts even if they weren’t chock full of suck.

  2. Right on – especially the part that I already know the superficial details and want some in-depth reporting. (Perhaps why I like the Countdown format).
    OTOH – my local TV News reports the same thing at 5, 6 and 10 PM. And a couple of times per broadcast say to get further information go to their web page. Well you go to their web page and it is a synopsis of what they said on the TV. LESS detailed.
    Also, they are fond of giving a teaser for the 6 PM news on the 5 PM news. Well if it were news, why are you holding back at 5????

  3. The news has also seen a fairly substantial drop in what I’d call the empathy factor. How many news directors (or talking heads, for that matter) think in terms of what Perfectly Average Joe Schmo needs to know.
    How many, for example, say to themselves, “Okay, I’m Joe Schmo today. I’m out of work, or I think my job’s going to go away soon, I don’t have a lot of savings, because I don’t make a lot of money. I have to put the kids’ clothes for school on the credit card and I hope like hell I don’t have an emergency in the next few months so I can pay down that balance. Now, what’s in that monstrous health care bill for me?” And, then, sit down and read the whole damned thing from that perspective. Next, report on it from that perspective.
    There never was a huge amount of “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” in the news, but, what there was of it has shrunk down to the size of a pea. That’s a major reason why people are watching the news less and less–there’s nothing left in it that is actually connected to their lives.

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