Olympics in Sydney wasnít "news" because by the time NBC
rebroadcast their tapes of the Olympic event, the viewing public
already knew who the winners and losers were, because the
"news" came to us over the Internet, the medium which is
ready when you are, unlike television, which is ready when you arenít.
The networks are actually thinking of giving up on the fierce
competition for the broadcast rights to the summer games and instead
moving on to other events which are far more newsworthy and far more
attention-getting, like professional wrestling.
networks say the Republican and Democratic national conventions are no
longer "news," and therefore the network television stations
will no longer spend the big bucks to broadcast them. Even the pundits
are saying that the conventions, which were previously highly regarded
as newsworthy events, are now nothing more than three-day-long
infomercials for the party, with their pre-rehearsed, prepackaged,
already-heard-it before speechmaking and the announcement of their
seem to be wrestling with the same problem in both of these cases, but
they have come up with the wrong conclusion and cast it in wrong pile.
And their decisions over these two rating losers may cause long-term
changes for the worse in the entire news industry.
two elements, they purport, that make news important and newsworthy
are RATINGS and SURPRISE. They say that valuable news commands great
ratings. Without ever-increasing audience share and without increased
ratings, news, they say, is of little value. Therefore, every news
event must have some sensational edge, command greater audiences than
any previous event, and, if it fails to draw in the majority of the
viewing public, will be cut from the budget and left for sub-class or
non-network broadcasters to pick up. If this is the case, watch for
the summer Olympics of 2010 to be a $200 pay-per-view event on Directv
rather than a network television news extravaganza.
problem with being RATINGS-driven is that after a while you will begin
to do almost anything for more audience share. Take for instance the
status and condition of many British and European newspapers that have
moved away from good, conservative journalism and news-reporting
values and become scandal sheets that attempt to gain audience share
by reporting news that manipulates or exposes or sensationalizes or
even invents news in a manner not unlike grocery-store tabloids such
as the Examiner or the Sun. Imagine for a moment an entire news
industry that purports that the only important news is not news at all
but is instead based on ribald lie and scandalous trash.
[to top of second
problem with being SURPRISE-driven is that surprise is not the right
quality with which to measure news. Surprise is up there right
alongside shock, and news doesnít have to be shocking to be
good-quality reporting. The best news stories I have read, heard or
seen in my life were not necessarily the ones which caused my jaw to
drop and hit the floor or the ones which made me do a double take and
change the channels to make sure that I had heard it right. I donít
need to be taken aback by the news. The news industry should never be
compromised by the temptation to take our breath away or by
competition to see which anchor can stun us into coming back tomorrow
to see what startling thing he or she will say next. Hearing, seeing
or reading the news shouldnít necessarily be accompanied by a sudden
rush of adrenalin or have the capacity to cause a mild coronary or
networks are wrestling with RATINGS and SURPRISE because both of these
short-term qualities are directly connected to their bottom line, and
unfortunately, money may soon dictate the quality and the definition
is far more than ratings and far more than surprise. News is telling
the story of your people, your community, your country and your world.
It does not compromise the facts in order to gain market share or get
a higher rating. It does not discard stories that fail to gain a
greater audience than last week or last year because their
entertainment value is low. News should be new but not shocking and
not always surprising. Sure, there will be news stories here and there
in our lifetimes that will shock or surprise us, but not every story
should have those values, and stories and events that donít take our
breath away need to be told even though their sensational value is
nil. News is our story, and each story will naturally have people who
are either interested or not.
take note, news industry. Show us the good news, show us the bad news,
show us the fast-paced news and show us the slow as well. We donít
need to be entertained. We only ask to be kept informed.