Saturday, December 08, 2012

If I were a TV News Producer

I get almost 100 percent of my news from two sources: Television and the Internet. But I am continually annoyed at some of the stuff they put on TV news these days - stuff that really isn't news at all. So sometimes I think I would make a much better news producer than the professionals they have in charge now.

Here is the way a decent local newscast should look:

The emphasis would be on positive stories about new things happening in town, such as what new businesses and restaurants are opening, if there are any new features being promoted by the city or state, and what activities are there that might be of interest to a large number of local residents.

Next most important topics would be breaking news (which, in some cases, might be the headline story, of course). But the emphasis here would be on merely reporting the facts of the story. If what is happening is visual, such as a fire or storm damage, then show a video of it. But I don't need to see a video of a reporter talking endlessly about what happened with shots of road signs or raindrops splashing in a puddle.

If a crime is involved I don't need to hear an interview with someone who is the next door neighbor of the suspect, telling us how unexpected it is to find out his neighbor's a criminal. I don't need to see a maudlin interview with a tearful victim; we all know the state of mind a tragedy can invoke. Simply stick to the facts of the story and move on.

A good local TV news program would have human interest stories that center on things that might affect a large number of viewers. I don't need to see any tearful reunions of a soldier coming home unexpectedly; that only affects his friends and family, not me. Instead, show stories about positive community events or people doing things that might affect the city as a whole or a large part of it.

I like to see stories about how new technology is being introduced or how people are using it. I would like to see more stories about science, nutrition, and health matters.

I also think that political news is important. However, one thing that both local and network news departments do is try to force a balance on both sides of an issue when there really is no balance. If Republicans are acting crazy, call them out on it and stop trying to present it as simply politics in general where both sides are doing the same thing. If Democrats are acting crazy, report it as such, but don't try to dig up something crazy about Democrats just because a Republican did something that is in-your-face crazy just for the sake of balanced reporting. Everybody understands the fact that the Republican Party these days includes a bat-shit-crazy element so there is no need to try to balance that out.

One example of this is the faux debate about the age of the earth. There is no debate. Instead, there are religious nuts and right-wing crazies who believe the world is a few thousand years old vs. the truth. Don't report it as "scientists say that the earth is 4.5 billion years old." Simply report it as "the earth is, indeed, 4.5 billion years old." Report factual news as factual. If there is a building burning it would not be reported as, "the fire department claims a building is burning." Show the same respect for scientific facts.

At the same time, however, if there is a single scientific study indicating something new or controversial, report it as such, not as a fact. A single study does not a fact make. Once the study has been peer reviewed and verified by other studies, then it can be reported as a valid theory or even as factual if enough evidence backs it up. But giving too much credence to single studies only makes people not trust science if and when that study is shown later to have been wrong.

There, that's the way a newscast should look as I see it. Cut down on all the maudlin human interest stuff. Report facts as facts. Don't interview people to get their feelings or opinion; only interview them if they have facts to reveal. Don't try to force balance on a story where no real balance exists. And get the science right.

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