Where Has All The Good Media Gone?
News On Demand
Details At 11?
The newscaster comes on with a urgent tease and tells you " Mr. Jones shot Mr. Smith. Join us at 11 for more details." What if you know both guys but happen to be sleepy and don't want to wait for the 11:00 newscast? If you are like millions of others you just go online and get the stories details on your own terms without staying up beyond your bedtime. This is the dilemma traditional news outlets are faced with in today's broadcast news industry and primarily the reasons viewership has been reduced so drastically. Of course most or virtually all television stations now have their own websites which you may, or may not go to for information on the story that you are interested in. The public no longer has to accept appointment T.V. news which has historically been the way business is done. The television stations tell you when and where you can get news information based on what they want you to know and unfortunately when they want you to know it.
Enter The Internet
Enter the world wide web and the internet. I have spent my entire adult working life in the broadcast news industry as a an anchor/reporter in both news and sports. I also have an extensive background in writing and print media. This new technology has been both a blessing and a curse to television stations and newspapers. The world and the news coming from it has never been more interesting and never been more important. Unfortunately many of those working to cover it are ill prepared to do so for various reasons including but not limited to the following.
- Young And Inexperienced
- Poor Training
- Motivated By Being A Media Star
- Unfair Expectations From News Managers
- Not Worried About Accuracy Or Details
- They Are Told To Get The Story And Get It On The Air. NOW.
This is not just the fault of the reporters and anchors. So many corners are being cut by broadcast management and ownership. In recent years there is a new concept call "duopoly" and shared services which is when two different network affiliates often times owned by the same company will basically show you the same newscast with the same personnel at different times. Economically it makes sense for station owners, but it does a disservice to the viewers those stations claim to care so much about. Because of this idea a lot of jobs in the industry have been eliminated, which even in major markets have hurt the news presentation product.
So Few Control So Much.
There used to be a time when some television and radio stations were locally owned sometimes by individuals or families that lived in and had stake in the community. Then in about the early 90's major corporations decided they wanted to control the mass media outlets and they started buying local stations making lucrative offers that local owners could not afford to turn down. Mega corporations were buying so much so fast that the federal communications commission had to step in and limit how many media outlets organizations could own and control. However, by that time you had fewer than ten corporations(see lower graphic) owning and controlling 90 per cent of the country's media outlets. If you follow the legal paper trail of an organization like say.. Disney you would be shocked at the strangle hold it has on media outlets, owning among others entities ABC and ESPN, just to name a few. There are other big companies that own the others. So few owning and controlling so much is very powerful and is never a good thing. The new owners who often times know nothing about journalism, or running television stations put lawyers and corporate bean counters in charge of protecting the bottom line and protect profit margins at any cost and that cost usually comes at the expense of personnel (cutting jobs) bad programming (acquiring cheap shows) Which gives birth to some of the crazy shows you see on TV these days.
A Changing World.
Where Do You Find Good Journalism?
In my opinion the answer to the above question is it depends on what you are looking for and what you consider news. You often hear people say that news is too depressing or boring therefore they choose not to watch anything. Which is a huge mistake because we are living in a fast moving time of super information in a 24 hour, 7 day a week news cycle with things happening that whether you want to admit it will at some point affect you and/or someone you love and care about. But if you are thinking beyond what the celebrities and wearing, and who they recently married or divorced you might find some very solid information on the non-conventional news outlets that are not slaves to time restraints and hurried efforts. No doubt that because they have so much time to fill these outlets often get bogged down in redundancy and repeated reporting. When you start to feel that happening then it's time to turn it off and perhaps find something else to do than gaze into a flat screen television. On a serious note. 24 hour news channels for the most part do a pretty good job. Of course they have their conservative or liberal political slants but you as a viewer have to decide what you want to see and more importantly what to tolerate.
Things To Consider As You Get Your News.
We live in a time when we are all bombarded by images, information, and sales pitches. I believe we all have our favorite sources for news but try not to fall too deeply into the broadcast news loyalty dungeons. Most reporters at all levels give it a pretty sincere effort and are honestly trying to provide the best information they can as timely and as accurately as they can. I have never met a reporter who intentionally made mistakes. However, I have known reporters who under pressure would guess at a fact and hope they are right. That kind of decision usually comes from a reporter who is under management pressure to turn a story get it on by any means necessary. A few things to keep in mind when you watch your next newscast:
- Is the reporter on the story by themselves? (a one man band)
- Does the reporter repeat what the anchor just said in the toss out?
- Wonder if the live shot was necessary, or did they just go live for the sake of going live?
- How often does a station refer you to their website? Usually happens because they don't have time to do the story justice during the newscast so for the rest of the story go to the website. As a viewer perhaps you should consider going to the website in the first place which would save a lot of time and would keep you from sitting through the stuff you don't want to see anyway.
It is that last point that will one day cause the nightly newscasts to become irrelevant. Viewers are less and less at the mercy of what a station's news director, or executive producer wants them to see. The internet and online news has allowed the public to tune in when they want and watch what they want and then move on to something else in their life. This is a hard cold fact that television executives are wrestling with as their viewership spirals down.
While all this is going on newspapers are trying to find a soft place to land. Over the past years the print media has cut staff and started to incorporate video images on their websites almost to the point of imitating what the television stations are doing. Subscriptions and home deliveries are decreasing and understandably so now that people can simply fire up the computer and read all about it online. The reader also no longer has to worry about the best way to get rid of waste paper. Recycling is always good, but why bother with taking a bin out to the curb once a week if you don't have to. It will not be long before those who own birds will need to find something else to line the cages with. Also trees and wildlife in the forest will appreciate the move to electronic media.
This Is A Disturbing Trend.
As a life long journalist I would just encourage you to take the time to be informed by the many media outlets whether you agreed with them or not. Knowledge is power. Read, analyze, think, and come to your own conclusions about all that is going on around you. Information about anything you can imagine is now available to all that seek it. Don't just take the word of the talking head you see on the nightly news programs. Research for yourself, ask questions, write letters and be a part of the solution. You can not do something about everything, but the worst thing you can do is be uninformed because at some point what's happening to others will eventually happen to you, or someone you know and love.