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.