What I am about to say might already be in your file of opinions, but I’m trying to watch less local television news because it has gotten so inane. Maybe it’s always been that way and in my mind I held out hope that the journalism of those newscasts would get better.
I think the newscasts still do breaking news, real breaking news, well. I thought the coverage of the severe weather that swept through Illinois last month was excellent.
Now I know it can’t be easy filling the five or six hours per day of news the Chicago stations put together, but yesterday’s snow storm reminded me of the weakness of the medium.
You can almost predict how a run of the mill snow storm will unfold as a story on a Chicago television station. You, the viewer, have driven home from work or wherever in the snow. Your mind obviously figures out that the area is going through some winter weather.
You turn on the news and with either a storm watch graphic or breaking news graphic, the 10 O’Clock news treats this average snow storm like the end of mankind. A reporter and camera crew have driven out in the snow to tell you what you already knew. Two people are interviewed from their cars or at a gas station and we are told that when it snows a trip takes longer or can be hazardous.
Then it all wraps up with an interview of someone from out of town who had to make a trip into the city during the bad weather and a few Chicago clichés are thrown in for good measure.
If the storm is bad enough, add a second reporter or have the first reporter out at O’Hare to tell the audience that, gasp, flights are cancelled and interview somebody in the ticket line that acts like it never gets this way in their hometown and it’s screwing everything up. If the person is from Miami or L.A. or someplace warm, it’s okay that they’re bitching.
Another portion of the newscasts that make me cringe are the happy talk segments between the anchors and the weather person and later between the anchors and the sports person.
“Now A.T Hleticsupporter with sports. A.T., it’s certainly going to be Bear weather Sunday against the Packers. Hopefully, the wind won’t take the wind out of the Bears’ sails. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
For a semester at college I was an anchor (a total Ron Burgundy type) at my campus television station, we were made to rehearse those happy talk segments.
What also drives me nuts is if a network is covering a breaking story live or a big game and then the 10 o’clock local news takes over, the lead story is exactly what we’ve seen for the last couple of hours.
My sympathy and compassion for crime victims goes up even further when they aren’t even given the dignity of the forefront of the 10 o’clock news because some Chicago team was playing a huge game that night.
I don’t know what the answer is. There are financial pressures on news operations at local stations. They need ratings and sometimes that doesn’t go well with good journalism.
I think the best newscast is the BBC edition that runs at 11:30 p.m. on WTTW in Chicago. You get a complete overview of the world and no happy talk. There’s just one anchor on the set. No one else. : )