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Television News

What's Wrong With the TV News 536

MBCook writes "Technology Review has a fantastic seven page piece titled "You Don't Understand Our Audience" by former Dateline correspondent John Hockenberry. In it he discusses how NBC (and the networks at large) has missed and wasted opportunities brought by the Internet; and how they work to hard to get viewers at the expense of actual news. The story describes various events such as turning down a report on who al-Qaeda is for a reality show about firefighters, having to tie a story about a radical student group into American Dreams, and the failure to cover events like Kurt Cobain suicide (except as an Andy Rooney complaint piece)."
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What's Wrong With the TV News

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  • by ravenspear ( 756059 ) * on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:16PM (#21890136)
    I'll sum it up in one name.

    Paris Nicole Spears

    Seriously, I really don't give a fuck. If I did I would purchase tabloids. How about some substantive reporting on actual world events? Or if you still have time to fill, some factual information on the presidential candidates. Like, maybe some stories on what they actually believe and have a record of voting for, so the public will be more informed and can make better decisions. Not stories analyzing who is ahead by 3% in the latest poll in what states or who has the best chance of winning. That only breeds bandwagoning subject to the control of the media. This is of course exactly what they want though, which is why we will continue to see no stories with real factual content, and simply sound bites.

    The internet is much better as a news vehicle because I can actually find stories with real content which complexly explore the issues. Apparently the news networks think that no one's attention span is greater than 1 minute and 30 seconds, so they mandate that no stories should be covered in depth. Occasionally there are multi-hour specials on certain things, but apart from that, there is rarely regular substantive coverage of important goings on.
    • by Alexx K ( 1167919 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:22PM (#21890180)

      What do you expect? TV is designed for the lowest common denominator. Why? It's simple. Most people don't watch TV to be educated. They watch to be entertained. Having an active mind while staring at the TV screen is an alien concept to many.

      Case in point: The decline in educational content on channels such as Discovery and TLC.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by peektwice ( 726616 )
        Clearly, neither of you are in the target demographic.
        • Call Jon Stewart (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:33PM (#21890244) Homepage
          More people under 30 get their news from Jon Stewart than any other source. Worse though is the fact that Stewart's fake news is better than the real news.

          People should call into Stewart to suggest that he come back on the air and does a straight news show until the writers return.

          • Re:Call Jon Stewart (Score:5, Interesting)

            by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:08PM (#21890490) Homepage

            He's coming back, and I can't wait, but I think Stewart's version of straight news would be too depressing.

            What I find so ironic is that this strike knocked my two main sources of news off TV, thus reducing the amount of coverage I've heard about it to what NPR did (which has died down now that the strike has been on for so long). A few weeks ago I realized I didn't even know if the strike was over or not and I had to go look it up.

            • by WaltBusterkeys ( 1156557 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:27PM (#21890620)
              No, what's really ironic is that an article summary complaining about the lack of "serious" and "important" news on TV uses the example of a rock star killing himself as "important" news. If the point is that Britney/Paris/Nicole aren't "real" news compared to actual events in Iraq/Afghanistan/RonPaul then why is Kurt Cobain somehow so important to deserve mention in the headline? It seems like the problem is one of music taste, not importance. If the news spent entire segments on rock stars (instead of pop stars) at the expense of Iraq/Afghanistan/RonPaul news I think the author would think that's just as bad.

              Otherwise, interesting article.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Zeinfeld ( 263942 )
                No, what's really ironic is that an article summary complaining about the lack of "serious" and "important" news on TV uses the example of a rock star killing himself as "important" news.

                Kurt Cobain was a vastly more important figure in the rock scene than Brintey/Paris/Nichole. Not mentioning his death would be like not mentioning the deat of Pavarotti.

                The point in the article though was not that NBC should have done saturation coverage on Cobain but that it should have been covered as news. It would o

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  Cobain dies in 1994, before Iraq/Afghanistan/Paul were stories of any sort

                  The first war in Iraq was in 1990-91. Iraq was a story before Cobain died.

                  Afghanistan should have been a major story in the early 1990s. The mujhadin took over the capital in 1992 [] and paved the way for the current government.

                  Ron Paul wasn't a story, but Ross Perot [] was.

                  If the complaint is that there isn't enough "hard" news or "real" news then Kurt Cobain is a terrible example. He was important to rock, but Britney is important to p
                • by bigstrat2003 ( 1058574 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @12:17AM (#21890924)
                  I disagree, there's no difference. Quite simply, the deaths of artists don't affect our lives in any meaningful way. Yes, they won't produce any more art, which is a shame (or a blessing, depending on your opinion of the artist). But their old art is still available to you, just as much as it was the day before they died. Anyone who gets worked up over the death of an artist is no better than anyone who gets worked up over the minutae of Britney's (or whoever's) life. It just doesn't matter. It should be something mentioned in passing, and then never mentioned again, because it just isn't real, meaningful news.
                  • by LithiumX ( 717017 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @03:41AM (#21891902)
                    I disagree. While I couldn't care less about the day-to-day mistakes of a sheltered flamed-out (and immensely successful) pop singer, I think it would be real news if she died, especially if by self-inflicted means. If someone important to culture (high or low) dies, it's always of general interest. Cobain was derided by most as just being one more rock star, and the constant MTV coverage of every hangnail and stubbed toe of his was little better than tabloid material... but his death was actually of some importance. It seems you have to die, preferably in a tragic manner, to achieve lasting fame. That doesn't mean it's a critical news story to be hashed over endlessly, but something on that level would warrant more than a "passing" mention.

                    The difference is that, now, network news is little different from MTV. Stephen King put it very well in one of his recent articles ( []). Instead of a sober statement regarding someone's death, followed by controlled commentary, editorial, and discussion of their impact, it now degenerates into a media circus like something that belongs in a pop magazine - it goes on endlessly, long after any intelligent person ceases to care. Even Anna Nichole Smith, someone who was about as important as Tiny Tim (blessings be upon his Holy Yukelale) and Charro, is STILL a major factor in the news. My only consolation is that the "golden age" of culture is an illusion brought on by the fact that we tend to forget that Murrow, Cronkite, and others were usually sidelined by pure garbage - we just don't remember the garbage for long. And the Golden Age of radio, for all of it's moments, was primarily filled with works of fiction that make modern sitcoms look like Masterpiece Theater. The first half of the 20th century seems to be filled with literary masterpieces, but most of the actual books printed at that time were even worse than what we have today. Conversely, there are many works being printed today that will certainly get more respect from future generations than they can hope for today.

                    I have a theory. Most people, meaning the vast majority who have no significant neural defects, only believe they can't handle culture. People are conditioned, not by government but by their peers, to believe that science, history, technology, and literature are beyond them. In school, I constantly saw ghetto kids slowly gain an understanding of computers (under my tutelage), then desperately hid it from their peers (to whom any form of academic achievement by one of their own had racial overtones). Later I saw that most people seem to feel that anything beyond them was simply beyond them, not understanding that no one learns "geek" subjects without effort. Some people have a stronger sense of wonder, a more powerful curiosity, that drives them to learn and grow more than others, but I really don't believe there is much that is beyond the average person, if they only paid enough attention to develop an interest in higher culture. People like to be comfortable. They like to have limits, no matter what they say. Regrettably, most people will accept imaginary limits of their own making rather than risk the crushing reality of the real thing, a choice that cripples them worse than any failed undertaking ever could.

                    That's why the media is the way it is. That's why the lowest common denominator is so low. That's why the masses prefer prolefeed to actual information. They have conditioned themselves to do so, and continue to do so until it (whatever "it" happens to be at the time) becomes sufficiently widespread as to be socially acceptable to their self-imposed caste.

                    On a final note, I don't care what anyone says about Spears in her post-career phase, I would still tap that ass, no question.
                    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @08:39AM (#21893014) Journal

                      In school, I constantly saw ghetto kids slowly gain an understanding of computers (under my tutelage), then desperately hid it from their peers (to whom any form of academic achievement by one of their own had racial overtones).

                      You've hit a pet peeve of mine there, and I don't know if it's even racial.

                      The thing is, it's not only ghetto kids. A lot of white adults too seem to have jumped on some sort of a "computers are too complicated, I don't have time for that nerdy crap" bandwagon. Even as more and more jobs require at least elementary computer skills, it's become more and more unfashionable to admit having even those minimal skills.

                      And it's not just believing that they can't handle it, and giving up without even trying. A lot do try, see that they can, then try even harder to hide that from their peers. I've seen people who _can_ handle a computer when they're alone, turn into helpless illiterates when there's a witness there.

                      We scared off the normal people, if you will. It's become a thing of pride to be as far from nerdy as possible.

                      In fact, in some circles it's become fashionable to be stupid. Cue a downward spiral as each member tries to not end up in the upper 50% of their group.

                      It's kinda funny. Human culture for _millenia_ respected intelligence. If you look as far back as the ancient Egyptians, a little known fact is that they actually had a phonetic set, but it was seen as a thing of _pride_ to be smart and educated enough to use the hieroglyphs. A relatively common form of flattery was to address a letter "to your scribe", meaning, basically, "I know that you can read it yourself and are your own scribe." The Greeks and Romans took pride in being able to read, write and master such subjects as administration, law, rhetoric and philosophy. (Which back then was _the_ science.) Etc.

                      Even the middle ages, weren't that dark a time in that aspect. There still were plenty of people trying to do alchemy, astrology and philosophy, which back the was what science _was_. Sure, it looks like ignorant and pointless compared to the modern scientific method and the later figures of the Renaissance, but nevertheless, those people were trying to figure out how the world works. Or there were advances in technology that we don't even learn about these days. The physics of the great gothic cathedrals and their mess of buttresses, are nothing short of amazing when you consider that they didn't even have a proper notation for that. Sure, it's trivial nowadays to calculate the vectors and see why it works, but that someone came up with that back then, it's amazing.

                      And again, noone considered it shameful to be seen in the company of an astrologer or alchemist. It was a thing of pride, in fact, and even kings and bishops made sure to have one around.

                      If you look as late as the 19'th century and early 20'th, the explosion of science was partially because people actually took advantage of the increasing opportunities to get an education. We have a whole category of "absent minded scientists", which were really nerdier than most people on Slashdot nowadays, and noone thought it was a social disgrace to be seen with one.

                      So where did we go wrong? How did it become fashionable to be the most stupid of one's peers?

                      How many potentially brilliant minds are we losing to that fashion? E.g., the ghetto kids you mention, some of them could become great scientists, and one or two might even discover the next great thing. But they don't, because their peers would mock any kind of academic interest or achievement.

                      How much is this costing us, as a society? And how long until it bites us all in the arse?
                    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                      re: "On a final note, I don't care what anyone says about Spears in her post-career phase, I would still tap that ass, no question."

                      Ditto. I bet she's a fuckin' tiger in the sack, especially after a could of good bong rips.

                      That was a most excellent analysis, LithiumX. Indeed, I'm giving up my ability to moderate on this thread just to tell you that.
                    • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:46AM (#21893612) Homepage
                      I am sorry Cobain who? Who cares? Just another pop/rock/hollywood star. We have way to many to care about them. Give me an sciences/political figure. I other word someone who changes our lives.

                      Maybe if you had a real news service available you would not be so ignorant about culture. Cobain and Nirvana led grunge rock which pushed the last creaky vestiges of glam rock and such off the stage. Cobain's suicide was the 90s equivalent of Sid Vicious's murder of Nancy Spungin followed by his own suicide.

                      The sudden death of Anna Nichole Smith was certainly a news story, but it wasn't breaking news and it was never justification for the saturation coverage it received.

                      And yes, there were plenty of other stories being dropped, but if you read the article you would have seen that the lack of a story on Cobain was only one of the examples where coverage was lacking, and a minor one at that. NBC wasn't passing up a story on Kurt Cobain to do indepth coverage of the rise of the Taleban or such. They were passing it up in favor of their usual vaccuous crud.

                    • That much is clear (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by Moraelin ( 679338 )
                      Well, that much is clear. And I'm certainly not proposing to stop people from getting what they want.

                      The question was, sorta, when did people start wanting to be stupid, and why? When did it become fashionable to have the intellectual and cultural horizon of a midget in a well?

                      I'm not even as much asking about the news, as such. That is IMHO effect, rather than cause. As you were saying, people get the news they want to get. And I could even live happily with them getting some brainless entertainment -- new
                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by BakaHoushi ( 786009 )
                      My theory, and feel free to tear this apart as necessary, is that the explosion of science and change over the course of the 20th century lead to this. Think of it this way. For most of human history, change was a slow, gradual concept. Yes, new theories and inventions were always coming out, but they were events, things to be celebrated. Now, scientific achievements are brought up so often (though never for more than 30 seconds) that they're impossible to keep track of. We went from horse and carriages to
                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      The question was, sorta, when did people start wanting to be stupid, and why?

                      I think this is the easiest part of the equation to figure out -- the mainstream acceptance of rap and "thug life" culture. If you listen to ten rap songs (sucker for punishment?), I guarantee that at least 80% of those will allude to gettin' rich (and/or famous, and/or laid) without being educated. It's not *just* that they talk about success without "typical" education, it's that they often specifically target the white-collar
                    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      by tbannist ( 230135 )
                      I think the problems you've outlined mostly come from American origins. Certainly the Christian Right has been actively involved in the war of science and education. We see that over and over again. Several other groups have been funding this because, well science eventually uncovers facts they don't like. Big Tobacco funds anti-global warming research. Why? Because it damages science in the eyes of the public and gets them off the hook for selling designed-to-be-addictive cancer tubes.

                      The U.S. govern
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  "Not mentioning his death would be like not mentioning the death of Pavarotti."

                  If Pavarotti had only done 3 albums. Like many rock artists who died young, Cobain's death spared him the idignity of becoming a has-been. Had he lived he might very well be on "The Surreal Life" today.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Ced_Ex ( 789138 )
                  Kurt Cobain was more famous in death than in life sadly. It wasn't until he was dead that people finally realized what he had brought to the music world.
              • by daemonenwind ( 178848 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @03:48AM (#21891958)
                Well, since you asked, this John Hockenberry seems to have two main complaints:
                1. He doesn't consider mainstream news relevant to his life. (Kurt Cobain, etc)
                2. He doesn't think the mainstream news will report anything that doesn't grab at gut-level emotions.

                Well, he's probably right about both. But his complaints seem to come from the fact that, rather than understanding what the show is and not taking a job there, he tried to make it into something it isn't. The guy should have stayed with NPR if he didn't want to write news copy for the express purpose of selling ads - that's the glory of Welfare Radio. No meaningful bottom line.

                Mostly because anything on the TV, Jon Stewart included, is designed to put you into enough of a trance to mindlessly watch advertising. It feeds the bottom line that keeps everyone employed and the bosses in stock options.

                Jon Stewart isn't any better or worse than Dateline.
                Dateline is a newsy show designed to appeal to emotion, not logic.
                The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a newsy show designed to appeal to a liberally-oriented laugh track, not logic.

                If you get your news from either source, you have no idea what's going on. The audiences are equivalent.
                The sad part is that so many of you with-whiners don't realize that the same blame you're pointing onto others applies to you as well.
                • Re:Call Jon Stewart (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:43AM (#21893570) Homepage

                  Jon Stewart isn't any better or worse than Dateline. Dateline is a newsy show designed to appeal to emotion, not logic. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a newsy show designed to appeal to a liberally-oriented laugh track, not logic.
                  The difference is that The Daily Show doesn't hide what they are... Dateline masquerades as a "real" news broadcast dedicated to delivering facts over entertainment when that's not the case... IMO that makes all the difference in the world. I have no problem with entertainment/news shows but they shouldn't be pretending that they're something they're not.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Phanatic1a ( 413374 )
                If the point is that Britney/Paris/Nicole aren't "real" news compared to actual events in Iraq/Afghanistan/RonPaul then why is Kurt Cobain somehow so important to deserve mention in the headline?

                NB: I don't really give a shit about Cobain. This post is intended solely to explain why his suicide is "real" news.

                1. Cobain was the frontman for an extremely influential rock group that, rightly or wrongly, was credited by many with revitalizing a stagnant music industry and birthing a new genre of music. Rightl
          • by rpillala ( 583965 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:35PM (#21890686)

            The Daily Show may be a fake news show but much of the damning parts are simply juxtaposed video clips of the same person saying two completely opposite things. That's what keeps me watching, is the memory the show seems to have about public record. So many "journalists" seem happy simply to be talking to their subjects or about their subjects that they don't call them on obvious bullshit. It's a fake news show insofar as it's not purely a news program, but it's also not as though they have actors playing Bush, Cheney, Rice, Craig, etc. in skits.

            The Daily Show is returning on Monday (1/7/08) without its writers.

            • Re:Call Jon Stewart (Score:4, Interesting)

              by LithiumX ( 717017 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @04:12AM (#21892066)
              The Daily Show (as well as The Colbert Report) are built on the assumption that the audience is at least vaguely familiar with the news. I've found that any time I've gotten too slack in keeping myself updated, the show is funny but just not as funny as usual. When I'm fully aware of the subject matter, the full humor comes out.

              As for the show's memory regarding public statements, that used to be called Journalism. I think the only thing funnier than the show itself is the media reaction to it. The "real" journalists you see participating in the show do so because they like what he is doing, and can see the irony of a show that presents heavy editorial comment framed by humor in order to reach an audience that the major news networks have effectively lost.

              It works. South Park and The Daily Show (after Stuart took it over) were the two main things that made Comedy Central grow and evolve, while it's siblings (the other comedy-based networks that few notice anymore) utterly failed. The History Channel became the Aliens and Biblical Prophecy Channel, The Discovery Channel became the Sharks, Blood, and Disasters Channel, and the Learning Channel, so promising at first, has effectively become the authoritative source of Medical Freaks and Wedding Planning. Meanwhile the Comedy Channel has gone from a dirt-broke cable backwater that mostly featured stand-up comedians in comedy clubs, old sitcoms, and a few forgettable homebrew series... to an utterly foul-mouthed travesty of toilet humor, sex humor, and tragedy humor dominated by high production values, social commentary disguised as comedy, a whole mess of puerile garbage with too many saving graces to be ignored, and some of the most controversial, hilarious, foul, and intelligent programming currently on television.

              Saturday Night Live, at it's height, was usually just very very funny. In Living Color had some serious intelligence that slowly collapsed under it's own ghetto-targeted humor. Mad TV dabbled in commentary, but was mostly just shock humor. Meanwhile, the first decade of the 21st century has seen a network that rallies under the banner of the First Amendment in a way rarely seen. They really are the court jesters of this country (and beyond).

              Incidentally, I have a running bet going with a few people that, very shortly after leaving office, if the show still stands, Bush will finally make an appearance on The Daily Show. He's had every other living president (sometimes more than once), and even the sitting VP's wife, so it's a fair chance.
          • by donaggie03 ( 769758 ) <> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:54PM (#21890796)
            "More people under 30 get their news from Jon Stewart than any other source. Worse though is the fact that Stewart's fake news is better than the real news." Maybe it's actually more people under 30 get their news from Jon Stewart than from any other source BECAUSE OF the fact that Stewart's fake news is better than the real news. Jon Stewart probably spends a lot more time discussing important topics than mainstream media. He might do so in a humorous way, but the content is still there.
          • Re:Call Jon Stewart (Score:5, Interesting)

            by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @12:33AM (#21891042)
            This is from an interview with David Javerbaum, executive producer of the Daily Show, in an episode of Frontline [] ("News War", part III: "A New Definition For What's News"):

            I personally, through this job, through working at this job, have come to feel that the news media is even more depressing than the news it attempts and fails miserably to report. I think it's horrible news, broadcast horribly. That's a fairly blanket statement, but I've been doing this for a long time, and seeing, delving into this every day, it's a thoroughly depressing business. To the extent that people look to us as a source of news, that is 100% indicative of other people's failure, and not our success. Because Jon, unlike me, has the cable news on in his office all day. I can't take it. I can't take it. But he's a tougher man than I am... "No fear, just facts"... [referring to a mocked CNN clip] ...if that's their slogan, then they're asking to be punched in the face, when they have nothing on but fear.
            Youtube link []

            I don't get my news from the Daily Show; it's just gratifying to hear someone on TV, pretending to report the news like they all do, who isn't lying to my face! Or pointing out when someone is lying! At least when they lie, it's clearly in the context of a joke!

            And I always know, that if anyone on the TV is going to be the first to tell the truth about something, it's going to be the Daily Show. It's always the Daily Show. And that really pisses me off. I don't "watch it for the news". You can't get news from the TV anymore. And you talk to people who only get their news from the TV, like most people still do, and it's like being on another planet! They're completely brainwashed! Try to tell them what's going on, and it feels like you're screaming into the darkness!

            I mean, I read this from the article:

            This was one in a series of lessons I learned about how television news had lost its most basic journalistic instincts in its search for the audience-driven sweet spot, the "emotional center" of the American people. Gone was the mission of using technology to veer out onto the edge of American understanding in order to introduce something fundamentally new into the national debate. The informational edge was perilous, it was unpredictable, and it required the news audience to be willing to learn something it did not already know.
            This isn't even true! I knew before the war, for example, that it was all premised on bullshit, maybe because I had an Internet connection? I forget how I knew; I just remember knowing a long time. I knew for at least a year beforehand. What am I, Nostradamus? I knew for at least a year that these people on TV were staring straight at us, carefully omitting things about Iraq that were true, saying things about it that weren't true, i.e. lying! How can they not know they're lying? I know they're lying! Lots of us knew they were lying! Lewis Black from the Daily Show knew they were lying! "I knew they didn't have weapons of mass destruction. How did I know that? I was just sitting on my fuckin' couch!" [] And then they wonder and bellyache about young people "getting their news from the Daily Show"!
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by RealGrouchy ( 943109 )
            As Jon Stewart has pointed out himself, people only get the jokes because they understand the issues surrounding them. That requires being tuned to more than just his show.

            - RG>
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by aussie_a ( 778472 )
        This was highlighted for me last night while my family watched Die Hard 4. I tried to watch it to spend time with them, I could only last 40 minutes because I was bored out of my mind. No plot, nothing to engage the mind. Simply explosion after explosion.
      • by localman ( 111171 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @02:29AM (#21891628) Homepage
        Most people don't watch TV to be educated. They watch to be entertained.

        Except it shouldn't only matter what "most" people watch TV for. Some people watch TV to be enriched in some way, at least some of the time. I do. Or rather, did. There should be stations to cater to that, but there is this endless obsession with being #1 so everyone tries to capture the largest market share. Which means they're all competing over the same piece of pie, while there are other smaller pieces that nobody is trying to get at all. Doesn't that seem a little stupid?

        A strong leader of the Discovery channel, with real vision, could have accepted that they weren't going to compete with idiot TV, and that they shouldn't try to. They should compete to bring a more specialized product to market for a smaller, hopefully more educated customer base. Not every restaurant has to be McDonalds.

        Anyone who believes the market solves everything care to explain why this happens in so many arenas?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Elemenope ( 905108 )

      Well, the Newshour on PBS is still decent. Not, you know, Edward R. Murrow decent, but still. 60 Minutes also occasionally does a good bit.

      And there's always the Daily Show. Except when the f*%#ing writers feel like striking. Someone should let them know that "fairness" and "consideration" are secondary to my fix!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davburns ( 49244 )

      Not stories analyzing who is ahead by 3% in the latest poll

      And failing to mention that the error margins of the poll are +/- 5%. That always bugs me.

      Apparently the news networks think that no one's attention span is greater than 1 minute and 30 seconds

      The target audience's attention span can never be longer than a commercial break. You might think you can get away from this by watching public broadcasting -- but then, how long are the pledge breaks?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by astaldaran ( 1040462 )
      Is the problem with TV News, the news itself or the audience which watches it? After all in Capitalism the, "market will choose" which shows end up coming on the air. Shows which just only spend a minute or two on a subject and seem to repeat every 20 minutes have place; like on CNN Head Line news. Shows about relatively unimportant people and events have a place, say one little light piece in the news (to take the edge off) or in the newspaper, or as someone else mentioned..the tabloids; honestly ther
      • by ravenspear ( 756059 ) * on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:21PM (#21890588)
        which I believe the best most unbiased one is with Brit Hume

        I had to quote that just so I could isolated it from the rest of your post and make sure I had read it correctly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pokerdad ( 1124121 )

        Is the problem with TV News, the news itself or the audience which watches it?

        Here's the problem with the theory that its the audience's fault. First, take that all potential audience members fall into one of these three groups:

        1. people who would only watch a hard news show
        2. people who would only watch an infotainment news show
        3. people who would watch a news show regardless of whether it is hard news or infotainment

        Then factor in that it is much, much, cheaper to air infotainment over hard news, and you will realize that group one would have to be significantly bigger than 2 and

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jacquesm ( 154384 )
      I think you are making one very basic assumption that is just dead wrong. People don't like to read, they like to look at pictures.

      It's the downfall of politics and just about everything else, nobody (on average) really cares about stuff they have to go out and expend energy for. Reading is 'work', looking at pictures is 'entertainment', and entertainment seems to be all you can get from the tube. If you want information, the internet fortunately gives you an infinite number of channels so that at least fo
  • by Skevin ( 16048 ) * on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:16PM (#21890142) Journal becoming more and more like Slashdot?

    Misleading Headlines, Irrelevant Stories, Flamebaiting Comments: you heard it here first!

    Solomon Chang
    • by Smordnys s'regrepsA ( 1160895 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:40PM (#21890306) Journal
      the comments are fair and balanced!
    • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:27PM (#21890626) Homepage
      Slashdot has nothing on dupes compared to the headline news ...

      Well, so long as it involved interns and politicians. I can't remember how many times the news seemed preoccupied with Chandra Levy, Monica Lewinsky, or whatever mostly unimportant event that got covered each day with slightly new 'breaking' information. If you want that, you have to go to Digg to see what each 'breaking' website has on the latest Apple rumors.

      At least Slashdot doesn't do the completely useless teasers ... 'Will we get snow tomorrow?' I'm guessing you could've told me in the time you toyed with telling us before every commercial break, making us think it's going to be on right after the commercials, but saving it for the LAST thing. I'm surprised they haven't tried 'Are tornados coming and should you run for your life? Find out next!'. Nope, we can go straight to the article, discover the article summary was completely inaccurate and/or misleading, without having to sit around for 45 minutes.

      It's crap like this why I don't watch the TV news anymore. I do listen to news on the radio, and they do the same thing, but I get traffic reports every 10 minutes, which is important in the Washington, DC area -- I just don't listen to it for 2 hrs straight, or I know I'll hear the same stories repeated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sethstorm ( 512897 ) *

      Misleading Headlines, Irrelevant Stories, Flamebaiting Comments: you heard it here first!
      Welcome to "The Slash Factor" with Bill O'Reilly.
  • by pigiron ( 104729 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:16PM (#21890148) Homepage
    ...Kurt Cobain?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:22PM (#21890182)
      90's flannel wearing emo (back when that sort of thing was cool)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Basehart ( 633304 )
      Donald and Wendy Cobain's kid.
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      I hate to say it but I don't consider celebrities to be all that news worthy. If they are around long enough like Bob Hope they become culturally very interesting but those are few and far between.
      Frankly Kurt Cobain's death didn't make a lot of difference to the world sad as it was for his fans and family.
      • Re:Who the hell is (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:05PM (#21890476) Homepage

        For the most part I agree. Kurt Cobain had a decent following and was becoming very popular and influential (from what I understand). It really wasn't covered at all. You can make an argument for that (like you did, and I largely agree that celebrities shouldn't be covered). But ABC did decided to cover him... not through a real piece, or a little 1 hour documentary, but through insulting him as a joke for Andy Roony.

        I get my news from John Steward, Steven Colbert, NPR, and the 'net. The first two are funny and cover a good mix of stuff. NPR does a pretty good job on the whole, with much better coverage of world events and more interesting in depth stories than I'd get from my other sources. The 'net supplements everything with tons of detailed coverage of the things that I care quite a bit about (like technology) that would include topics too esoteric for more mainstream coverage.

        But many evenings I'll watch 15 minutes or so of news while I'm cooking or eating dinner. I watch NBC, ABC, or CBS. Local or national, whichever is on. It never ceases to amaze me just how BAD it is. The reporting on local events doesn't cover much, except to say there was a fire here or a robbery here. The national news tends to cover celebrity junk, or the war (which they cover very poorly, no matter which side you're on). The best thing I've seen in a long time was CBS's recent series on where our tax dollars went, and just how many earmarks and pork there was last year. But this was one little 5 minute segment on the evening news. It wasn't longer. They didn't call for action. Just a quick "congress is wasting your tax dollars, oh well."

        I remember once, a few years ago, Charlie Gibson did some little piece that was probably supposed to be fluff for Good Morning America. And in the middle of the piece he just asked this really insightful hardball question to the person. It made the Daily Show because it was such a perfect "gotcha" moment. And it just makes you wonder... Charlie seems like a nice guy but if he can do that kind of reporting, why is he just doing fluff on the morning show... competing with the likes of Regis and Kelly (who don't pretend to be news).

        Every now and then, I'll hear a fantastic report on NPR. It will tell me more than I ever knew about some event that I'd already heard about earlier from other outlets; and I'll gain a real understanding. It may be just some little human interest type story, but something that's actually interesting about a little town or business and what's going on there. The "Grandma Smith's cat traveled 80 miles to come back home" type stories get, at most, a 5 second mention to fill time in a group of little tidbits.

        And then, once in a long time, one of the reporters on Morning Edition will say something funny. Something I didn't expect, and hilarious. Not some bad joke anyone could have written. Not some forced line. Something that's actually funny. Like a few months ago when there was some story about Moree Eels, and they broke out into a version of "That's Amore" (which got posted in the comments here on /.) that made me just break out laughing. They're willing to take a few risks now and then that no TV network will.

        To say nothing about their other programming. Where is network TV's version of All Things Considered, Science Friday, Talk of the Nation, or any of NPR's other news-type programs.

        At this point, watching the main networks is just kind of depressing, making me pitty how bad they have become. You'll see people like Rather talk about trying to be Cronkite, and you just wonder how little Cronkite or some of those other older authoritative voices would think of how bad things are now.

    • by GaryPatterson ( 852699 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:32PM (#21890654)
      ...Kurt Cobain?

      He's the guy that sang the line "I don't have a gun," and then showed us he was being ironic.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @12:11AM (#21890878)

      Who the hell is Kurt Cobain?


  • by 427_ci_505 ( 1009677 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:30PM (#21890230)
    You can read more in one hour, than a newscaster can speak in one hour intelligibly.

    So news is all soundbites.
    • by darjen ( 879890 )
      Yes, but a picture is worth a thousand words... so, therefore a 30 second video clip on the news (at 30 fps) equals 900 words. I'd be pretty impressed if you could read words at that rate.
      • by darjen ( 879890 )
        Actually, I meant to say it'd be worth 3000 words. Duh. ;)
    • why print rules

      Print? Print is trying to become like pulp novels or tv news, cheap crap.

      But you hit the heart of the problem. TV news is a newscaster talking to the camera. I want to see primary sources mostly, not someone's evidence-free analysis.

  • by mandelbr0t ( 1015855 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:32PM (#21890238) Journal
    The guys making decisions are few, and they are all political animals. Even the more liberal ones like Jon Stewart use their airtime to make political points. Television has become prescriptive, a way for the rich and powerful to tell us what to think. It's more noticeable in the U.S., I think, because both major parties have converging interests when it comes to issues like Al Qaeda, Iraq, etc. Big network TV in the U.S. is bordering on propaganda. I can recall one attempt by the Canadian Conservative government to play along, banning images of Canadian military caskets from the media. Thankfully there was a public outcry, and the decision was soon reversed. Unlike the Republican government, the Conservatives have a minority government and must make concessions to the Opposition on a regular basis. This is not a problem in the U.S., and I don't expect that we'll see a more empathetic viewpoint on major network television before Bush is out of office.
    • by no-body ( 127863 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:12PM (#21890520)
      Right on!

      The world is like a ship in a huge storm

      - the rudder is broken, and the mast just broke also, the ship cannot be steered any more
      - the captain and crew are totally drunk or stoned

      and the news media are there to make the passengers think they are on a holiday cruise
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster ( 602015 )
      Bordering on propaganda? I'd say that line got crossed years ago.
  • by thatskinnyguy ( 1129515 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:35PM (#21890250)
    I don't care if Nicole Ritchie had a loose bowel movement today. Or any of that "believe and achieve" bullshit. News is news. If I wanted this brand of news, I would turn on MTV.

    For quite a few years now, the only place I have gone for objective reporting on real American news is the BBC and Reuters. So I suppose the world hasn't gone mad. Only American media has.
    • Don't you really mean "agree with my world view", because only a total tool would think Reuters in unbiased, last year once again had them caught out several times. Don't also forget that it is thanks to Reuters that the RIAA and the like can just publish their press-releases with whatever they want because Reuters (and other press agencies) have made it their business to simply publish press-releases and NEVER EVER investigate, but still insisting these copied press-releases are "real" news.

      As for the BBC

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I get the feeling that you're European. When it comes to news from within the US (politics, etc.), BBC and Reuters are generally less biased than other outlets like the New York Times, SeeBS (sic), Fox News, NBC, ABC, CNN, and other outlets from the 'States.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:36PM (#21890264)
    Did you hear Kurt Cobain was on the TV? ...and on the carpet, the walls, the furniture...
  • by yroJJory ( 559141 ) <> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:38PM (#21890282) Homepage
    What's wrong with TV news? It receives Nielsen Ratings. That means they are not treated as informational, but rather as entertainment and require audience share (in the eyes of those who watch the "bottom line").

    And I'm not the only one who thinks this. There are papers about this very subject. []

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by YU5333021 ( 1093141 )
      But to play devil's advocate here, what's wrong about Nielsen Ratings? After all, it tells us (to a fair degree of accuracy) what people are willing to watch and what they aren't. Turns out local news that start the program with weather alerts, sports analysis, and a human interest story, are doing a lot better than the ones that will be discussing the most recent UN resolution on global poverty or the likes. Give people what they want, and if it's celebrity death matches that they want, so be it. Internet
  • by Oddster ( 628633 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:38PM (#21890290)
    We are once again experiencing the century-old practice of Yellow Journalism []. In fact, I would say that media's role in how the Spanish-American War [] was sold to the public is disturbingly parallel to that of the invasion of Iraq, just with Karl Rove at the helm instead of William Randolph Hearst []. What we think is this new medium of "infotainment" is simply an update of sensationalism [].

    Unfortunately, history and civics education in the US are so atrocious that I would not expect many Americans to remember any of this, making us doomed to repeat mistakes from a hundred years ago.
  • by ChePibe ( 882378 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:42PM (#21890314)
    When rehashing a poll, showing a live feed from a local station, or summarizing whatever happens to be in the latest tabloid can make the money?

    Seriously, folks. Think about it.

    There could be dozens of reporters, embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. Long-term. Providing up-to-date information, first-hand insight, and actually getting to know the areas they are in.

    But, sadly, this would cost actual money (one could make various political arguments on each side of this as to why it is or is not covered, but let's focus on the bottom-line here). So, instead of, you know, covering these things in an in-depth fashion, the media might, every once in a while, drop in a guy for a 24-48 hour stint with the primary purpose of getting a nice quick video snap of something interesting. Whooptey-freakin'-doo. They'll spend the rest of the time sitting in hotels, out-sourcing reporting to heaven only knows who (and sometimes it appears the reporter doesn't even know). So rather than getting the look from someone who could have some expertise in the area, we get something filtered through Lord only knows who that's working as a stringer.

    Then, instead of more reports, or an in-depth report, we get a short report followed by commentary from someone whose whole qualification on this matter - and all others - is the fact that he/she has an opinion on the matter. It's the same on all the networks, every last one of them. Why pay for reporters to go out and do expensive foot work when you can get short snippets from outsourced reports and then fill air time with someone blathering on about them?

    There are a few good reporters on the ground in Iraq - they're called bloggers, and the reader automatically understands and accepts there's a bias to their reports. But for the most part, the mainstream television media has become a sick joke - whether it's CNN, Fox or MSNBC.
    • by ChePibe ( 882378 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:51PM (#21890386)
      Might I recommend highly the Newshour with Jim Lehrer to all readers?

      The program features actual experts. That don't yell over each other. Each has time to form a response to questions. It's amazing, astounding, the best TV news available, period.
      • by WindowlessView ( 703773 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @12:49AM (#21891136)

        Might I recommend highly the Newshour with Jim Lehrer to all readers?

        The Newshour is decent only relative to competition. True, they are willing to devote 15 or 20 minutes to a topic and don't yell over each other. However, they rarely ask tough questions and never force tough answers. Politicians know it is a safe place to spin.

        If you look at the composition of guests on the Newshour your realize they are as bad as anyone else, just better behaved. The "experts" tend to be from the usual corporate funded think tanks. If anything, being in DC, it is worst than most shows in booking the standard power elite stooges. You can count on one hand the number of guests who might actually rock the boat or say something outside the Washington defined limits of the topic.

  • by the Dragonweaver ( 460267 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:50PM (#21890376) Homepage
    I have worked in and around newsrooms from college on and I know, firsthand, where much of the problem lies. Journalism, that is, the finding and reporting of facts, has little to do with a journalism major, which is primarily interested in "the proper form." As the article says, "the emotional center," or, more specifically, an insulated and insular group of people attempting to capture the attention of the audience.

    There was a study done on mid-level news markets about eight or nine years ago, and what they found is that reporters have a lot in common with one another. They tend to rent, not to buy. (This is quite understandable, as "two weeks notice" doesn't happen in news; more often a person finds out of Friday that they don't need to come back on Monday.) They tend to live in the city rather than suburban or rural areas. (Again, understandable given the commute.) They tend to be single rather than married (stability issues again) and use certain services more than others-- transit, fitness centers, and so on. The upshot was that the necessary living patterns for reporters-- again, not big-city reporters, but mid-market types-- meant both that a certain point of view was attracted to the lifestyle, and that the point of views of the people involved would necessarily change.

    And that viewpoint-- we're not talking political here, though it does play a role-- agrees with 2% of the wider US population. Two percent.

    Or in other words, the viewpoints of 98% of the population are foreign to the average reporter. Moreover, the average reporter is your typical person, which by and large means the vast majority of them are, basically, lazy. How many of you just get through your day, doing the basic minimum that your job requires? Well, imagine what that's like as a reporter, when you don't have somebody breathing down your neck to report the facts, but instead have them breathing down your neck to "find the emotional center." That reporter's going to find the emotional center, and is almost certainly going to do so using a mental template (Insert Issue A into Slot B and add Cute Kid/Pet/Quip at end.) You end up with lazy reporting.

    Lazy reporting gets you those stories about farmers that always seem to imply that they must be hicks, or slow, or obsessed with "weird things" because they aren't smart/hip/normal enough to move to the city, like "real people." Or the ones that as what [X racial group] thinks about a subject, as if a vast group of people who share a few alleles must have similar opinions. Or, in the most common template of them all, the good little underdog against the evil corporation/city council/religious group.

    Why do I get my news online? Because a well-done story, linked back to source documents and complete transcripts, is yards and away from "San Francisco tiger mauls two and kills one; blood and guts at eleven" (past teasers and grainy footage and the obligatory Horrified Bystander.) I know what news is, and I don't confuse it with reality-entertainment.
    • by causality ( 777677 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @03:56AM (#21892002)

      I have worked in and around newsrooms from college on and I know, firsthand, where much of the problem lies. Journalism, that is, the finding and reporting of facts, has little to do with a journalism major, which is primarily interested in "the proper form."

      Yes, this is known as Newspeak. The real understanding of the problem is when you see just how widespread this is and that it's not just limited to the newsrooms. Look at what has happened throughout the years to words like "conservative" or "liberal" and how many times within one lifetime they change meanings.

      As the article says, "the emotional center," or, more specifically, an insulated and insular group of people attempting to capture the attention of the audience.

      Well, imagine what that's like as a reporter, when you don't have somebody breathing down your neck to report the facts, but instead have them breathing down your neck to "find the emotional center."

      Odd that the demands made to reporters are to find an emotional appeal, and coincidentally enough that's also the same thing you would look for if your goal was to manipulate people. Hmm, what are the chances of that? And how we love our entertainers! The doctor who cures cancer is going to be a rather anonymous figure one month later, but if someone can sing and dance and act we need to know every last detail of their personal life.

      And that viewpoint-- we're not talking political here, though it does play a role-- agrees with 2% of the wider US population. Two percent.

      For all the talk of diversity, it's amazing how the only form of diversity we don't care about is that of worldviews.

      Lazy reporting gets you those stories about farmers that always seem to imply that they must be hicks, or slow, or obsessed with "weird things" because they aren't smart/hip/normal enough to move to the city, like "real people." Or the ones that as what [X racial group] thinks about a subject, as if a vast group of people who share a few alleles must have similar opinions.

      What these all have in common is that they are about group identity. Lots of lovely "us against them" dynamics can be found here, with a hint of "divide and conquer". To whom would such a thing be useful?

      Or, in the most common template of them all, the good little underdog against the evil corporation/city council/religious group.

      And this one is called "lip service", in this case to the concept of individuality. None of the $underdog vs $large_group conflicts are ever the sort that could truly change or disrupt $social_order aka $business_as_usual. Instead, they're all nice and sanitized and safe and they fit rather neatly within the boundaries of mainstream thought. Any "debate" presented is about which prescribed point of view (typically along a one-dimensional continuum such as left vs. right) more accurately describes the subject and is therefore phony.

      These kinds of patterns are literally everywhere in mass media. They are not at all limited to this one example. You should draw your own conclusions as to what this means. One idea is that modern "democracies" accomplish with propaganda (sometimes called anonymous authority) the same degree of control that despots of old accomplished with the sword (overt authority); with the second method the people knew very well that control was being exerted.
  • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:50PM (#21890380) Homepage
    A pretty good piece.

    But it's not new. You can go back to Aleister Crowley complaining about the press (and he was a "celebrity" who constantly ended up in the press) being a bunch of hacks with an agenda - and that was back in the late 1800's. Hitler said the same thing except he blamed it all on the Jews.

    Some years back former CIA director William Casey publicly said that ALL the mainstream media was either owned (through fronts) or controlled by the CIA. He wasn't joking when he said it.

    I see nothing on the air to discredit that statement. Quite a few people have pointed out that large numbers of (supposedly) "ex"-CIA analysts are doing the writing and editing for most of the major media - even including some of the (supposedly) left wing "alternative" media. The excuse is that CIA analysts are good at producing concise, condensed recaps of analytical material - which makes them great journalists.

    Except as General Gogol said, "Nobody ever leaves the KGB."

    And once you get beyond the CIA, you've got corporate interests - and beyond, corporate stupidity - and beyond that, personal incompetence and stupidity.

    How "news" could survive that chain of barriers without being completely useless is beyond me.

    Look at today - we've got a bit of "news" coming out of India that supposedly Benazir Bhutto was shot with some kind of laser gun!

    Right. I'll buy that for a dollar. More disinformation to confuse the matter, so that anybody who thinks she was killed by the Pakistani government looks like a "conspiracy nut".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Interestingly enough, Bob Woodward [] came to speak at Clark University [] when I was an undergrad, and during the Q & A some idiot got up and blathered a conspiratorial question about the CIA and censorship that was about as stupid as your post. Woodward responded with something to the effect of, "Do you think anyone could stop me from publishing something that's true?" he went on to say?" It was a rhetorical question from someone who actually knows what's he's talking about directed at a fool weaned on Inte
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Paladin144 ( 676391 )
        You are so naive. It's cute. But also a little sad.

        The problem is that you were listening to the sellout half of Woodward & Bernstein. His former partner Carl Bernstein wrote an article about the CIA's infiltration of the mainstream media [] (it's called Operation Mockingbird [] and it's no conspiracy theory. It's conspiracy fact) and was never heard from in the MSM again.

        So, tell me again how my "type" is silenced again?

  • by Thaelon ( 250687 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:01PM (#21890440)
    What's wrong with TV news? They have to sell commercial time, so they air only the most sensational stories. Or the spice real news up to be sensational in order to sell commercial time. What's wrong is they claim to be in the business of providing news when they're really in the business of selling commercial time to advertisers. And the need for many viewers to watch these commercials are the reason for the sensational news.

    Slashdot is about as guilty. See repeated stories of "bricking" where no devices were irrecoverably harmed, that is, "bricked".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gooman ( 709147 )
      I wish I had mod points for you. You got it right, a little glib, but right.

      In the U.S. today ALL NEWS MEDIA (T.V. Radio, Newspapers and Magazines) are nothing more than advertising delivery methods.
      You can argue all you want about bias, agenda, fair, unfair... It's all irrelevant.
      Accurately informing the public is not close to a priority anymore. Selling advertising is.

      The Daily Show with it's "bite the hand that feeds it" attitude is only done to appear edgy and thereby appeal to the demographic. If the r
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:17PM (#21890562)
    JibJab had a pretty good piece about it, What we call the news.

    News, or rather, reports about events that moved the world or had some serious impact for national and international developments, got replaced by patched together stories about some celebrities doing some crap. Now, what kind of "news" is that? What kind of "information" is that? Who the fuck cares whether some blonde bimbo shits into the pool of her ex? But we don't get to hear that some countries in Africa are fighting over their border, which can and does have some impact in our lives, even if it only leads to more expensive coffee.

    Sit down for the next news and watch carefully what you get to hear. How much is about politics, how much about technology, how much about tabloid news (i.e. celebrities and other petty, meaningless, pointless and mindless rubbish)? You'll notice that the last category takes up a sizable portion if not the majority of the "information" you get.

    Then, watch politics closely. How much is national, how much international? And how much of the national news is more than thinly veiled election advertisment?

    How much is actually information, and how much is just something "inciting", something to speak to your heart rather than to your mind?

    That's what's wrong with the news. It's not about information anymore.
  • by kamatsu ( 969795 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:32PM (#21890662)
    Here in Australia, we have one network that is government funded and does not fall victim to any form of sensationalism.

    The Australian Broadcasting Commission, ambiguously referred to as the ABC, is entirely funded by the government and therefore has no interest in ratings. The news and current affairs coverage is usually top-notch, although occasionally it demonstrates a slight left-wing bias.

    I switch to Channel Ten, and I see Sandra Sully cutting to some recycled footage while talking about some cloning technology, and concluding the story with "Of course, human cloning is still many years away." Then, they use computer effects to duplicate Sandra Sully, and the two Sandras say in unison.. "or is it?".. followed by 15 minutes of someone rambling on about "Entertainment News", followed by a cut to the loud and annoying weatherman who spends more time advertising charities than talking about the weather, then cut back to Sandra Sully who will engage in some useless banter with the sport guy. And the sports report is just a veiled advertisement for the sports programme they have on later that night, and then they do some "Australian Idol" news, and finish up to pictures of the beach.

    ABC is at least a safe haven of real journalism. I'm not even sure the people working at Channel Ten are even journalists.
  • by Tweekster ( 949766 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:42PM (#21890720)
    Sorry but the failure to cover that story was pretty much right on. It wasnt of any significant importance. I was a fan of his but even can realize the fact that it was pop icon news and nothing more.
  • Television news? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:57PM (#21890806) Homepage
    Isn't that about as much an oxymoron as "reality TV"?
  • There Is No Audience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @12:02AM (#21890848) Homepage Journal

    The total evening network news audience now stands [] at around 26 million, down about a million from the year before. It has now dropped by about 1 million a year for the last 25 years.

    Ratings, which count the number of television sets in the U.S. tuned to a given program, declined almost 4% between November 2005 and November 2006, falling to 18.2, down from 18.9 in November 2005, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.1 That is about the same pace as in recent years.2

    Meanwhile, share -- the percentage of just those sets in use at a given time that are tuned to a program -- declined more, 8%, to 34 in November 2006, from 37 the same time in 2005. Now, only about a third of the TV sets in use at the dinner hour are tuned to the network news.

    Those stats are from 2006. After another year, that probably means there's only 25M or fewer viewers. Half the number from 1982. But the rates are much faster than they inummerately describe (they watcht too much TV to be good at math). 1M of 25M is a 4% drop in 2006; the 1M drop in 1983 was a 2% drop. And since the US population was about 230M in 1982, but 300M now, we're talking about a drop from about 22% to about 8% of the population tuning in. Which is a drop to almost one third, in case you're wondering.

    That one third still watching TV is probably mostly the same people as a quarter century ago, now glued to sets in their nursing homes, unable to change the channel. And the stats don't even address the number of people who now don't just mainline the nightly news as the gospel truth, but also cross-reference with the Internet, including actually discussing the news on blogs.

    The news has never been a good business for the broadcasters. It was just jammed into their commercial offerings to justify their use of the public airwaves and all kinds of other subsidies they get, and to make the rest of the "messages" (advertisements and the propaganda disguised as "news") more respectable. The rest of their programming makes more money in the ads that's their only real product. So they'll be glad to call it quits once no one is interested in holding them to any kind of "public service" any more.

    As soon as about an hour or so of actual news is clickable YouTube on my bigscreen TV that my friends have all recommended, I'll be happy to let them get away with finally just canceling their shabby efforts.
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @12:59AM (#21891194) Journal
    For Pete's sake, people, remember who is the customer in the "TV transaction".

    It's NOT the viewers. It's the ADVERTISERS.

    The advertisers pay the stations to wave their products in front of X number of eyeballs. The television shows (and yes, that includes news shows) are simply the bait to keep X at the highest possible number. The programs are NOTHING MORE THAN BAIT. Since the presence of bait+advertising is zero-sum (ie more bait means less minutes of advertising to viewers), then the ONLY tactical goal of the studio is to make a show that will keep a person watching even when the bait is taken away (commercial breaks).

    Keep that in mind at all times, and you'll find that watching TV, while occasionally entertaining, quickly becomes repulsive.
  • Two words! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mabu ( 178417 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:38AM (#21891388)
    What's wrong with TV news in two words: FAIRNESS DOCTRINE [].

    It really is as simple as that. In 1987 news media was crippled. And that was the beginning of the end.
  • by EXTomar ( 78739 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:50AM (#21891456)
    One of the major problems with TV reporting is that the costs of doing real news worthy reporting for a 5 minute on air segment is astronomical compared to just calling up some "expert" to talk about what they think happened. And as it turns out, the pundit probably scores better for most demographics (ie. they look better, sound better).

    We saw this happen (again) with the run up to the Iraq War where it would have taken months of reporters actually doing the research and tracking leads to develop a story that many people would find uncomfortable if not right hostile. The alternative is that they call up some retired military guy and ask him "What do you think is going on?" Almost every news source in the US opted for the cheaper pundits than the expensive reporting and we got exactly what we paid for.
  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @02:42AM (#21891680)
    Watch BBC news coverage of America. They're far worthier of that appellation than any outlet in the United States, and they also mostly don't give a crap which political party or corporation they might offend by reporting the facts. As an additional plus, they are the one media operation that Rupert Murdoch can't buy and subvert.

    It seems many other Americans agree, because the BBC news seems to have grown from being on only one channel (BBC America) morning and night, to four.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 03, 2008 @04:00AM (#21892010)
    As a Brit who has traveled extensively in the USA (visited 48 of 50 states) since 1975 and worked for an American Company for 20+ years I have seen US TV News really dumb down over the years.
    Lets take this example.
    At the time of the first Gulf War, many National Guard Units were being called up. I was on Holiday in New Orleans and the TV News had around 50 minutes (including ad breaks) devoted to the departure of National Guard units to bases where they were replacing the troops who were on their way to the Gulf. Note the coverage was all about the NG units not the regular forces leaving to fight. Lots of weeping relatives and yellow ribbons were shown.
    At the end of the News, there was a 15 second piece about the Resignation of Maggie Thatcher ( British PM). Given the Britain was sending many thousands of soldiers/sailors & airmen to the gulf to fight alongside the US forces, I felt almost insulted by the coverage given.

    The coverage of the Current US Election(Iowa etc) is quite widespread on UK Broadcast Media (TV & Radio). We are aware of the implications that a change in the occupant of the White House can have on Global stability etc. I wonder how many US citizens are equally aware given the predominance of coverage of 'Celebrity' has on US TV. I was in the US a couple of months ago and was amazed at the amount of time given to what I call Celebrity PAP rather then serious news items. This is IMHO dumbing down.

    Personally, I don't give a about the antics/sex/drug/etc habits of so called Celebrities. But I'm at the age where I can be a member of the 'Grumpy Old Men' club (Excellent BBC TV Series).
  • Six Sigma (Score:3, Informative)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @05:18AM (#21892330)
    Oh geez, Six Sigma was involved in this disaster! No wonder the news sucks!

    GE had acquired NBC back in 1986, when it bought RCA. By 2003, GE's managers and strategists were getting around to seeing whether the same tactics that made the production of turbine generators more efficient could improve the production of television news. This had some truly bizarre consequences. To say that this Dateline correspondent with the messy corner office greeted these internal corporate changes with self-destructive skepticism is probably an understatement.
      Six Sigma--the methodology for the improvement of business processes that strives for 3.4 defects or fewer per million opportunities--was a somewhat mysterious symbol of management authority at every GE division. Six Sigma messages popped up on the screens of computers or in e-mail in-boxes every day. Six Sigma was out there, coming, unstoppable, like a comet or rural electrification. It was going to make everything better, and slowly it would claim employees in glazed-eyed conversions. Suddenly in the office down the hall a coworker would no longer laugh at the same old jokes. A grim smile suggested that he was on the lookout for snarky critics of the company. It was better to talk about the weather.
    While Six Sigma's goal-oriented blather and obsession with measuring everything was jarring, it was also weirdly familiar, inasmuch as it was strikingly reminiscent of my college Maoism I class. Mao seemed to be a good model for Jack Welch and his Six Sigma foot soldiers; Six Sigma's "Champions" and "Black Belts" were Mao's "Cadres" and "Squad Leaders."
    I became painfully familiar with Six Sigma working at a large tech company (it's so large, its stock symbol is a single letter). That's a fairly accurate description of what it was like working there.

    I'm surprised to hear that Six Sigma even makes the production of turbine generators more efficient. I actually doubt this. Six Sigma is a management fad, and it's hard to identify exactly what it brings to the table. In fact, although I had to put up with it for so long, I'm still at a loss to describe it. Maybe this excerpt from its Wikipedia page [] will help:

    Six Sigma is a set of practices originally developed by Motorola to systematically improve processes by eliminating defects.[1] A defect is defined as nonconformity of a product or service to its specifications.
    While the particulars of the methodology were originally formulated by Bill Smith at Motorola in 1986[2], Six Sigma was heavily inspired by six preceding decades of quality improvement methodologies such as quality control, TQM, and Zero Defects. Like its predecessors, Six Sigma asserts the following:
    Continuous efforts to reduce variation in process outputs is key to business success
    Manufacturing and business processes can be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled
    Succeeding at achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, particularly from top-level management
    The term "Six Sigma" refers to the ability of highly capable processes to produce output within specification. In particular, processes that operate with six sigma quality produce at defect levels below 3.4 defects per (one) million opportunities (DPMO)[3]. Six Sigma's implicit goal is to improve all processes to that level of quality or better.
    Essentially what happens is that people at managerial levels have no idea what to do, and they reach toward this thing as a canned recipe for how to do their jobs. And it certainly wastes a lot of time, since you have to get training and attend seminars, and it certainly impresses people who confuse activity with progress. It sure as hell generates a lot of Powerpoint slides. It also seems to have a cult-like quality to it. Six Sigma directives come raining down from the highest levels of management and the urgency behind them is palpable- and everyone is freaked because it's all incredibly important but nobody understands what it is.
  • He's right you know (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mhollis ( 727905 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @03:30PM (#21899114) Journal

    I never had the opportunity to work directly with John as he worked the Dateline side and I was strictly on "news." I worked as an editor for NBC Nightly News and Today for over 8 years. You can see some of my work here []. Like John, I was laid off in one of their "downsizing" operations.

    John writes in his article about how there was a lot of interest in finding stories in the emotional heart of America and no interest in stretching the understanding of most Americans and that is true of Dateline as well as the News division. John was a very well-known journalist hired by Dateline to do serious stories. He is right to have felt frustrated. There is zero interest in informing Americans what is truly happening and the best example is the 2000 election.

    NBC breathlessly announced that there was a "Constitutional Crisis" in the election and that unless this whole Florida recount was figured out it would turn into a real crisis. Then NBC sent cameras to get unique angles of election officials scrutinizing punch-card ballots and followed the court cases. Then, rather than inform America about what is written in the US Constitution, NBC and the other networks passively stood by while the US Supreme Court, in a completely extra-Constitutional step decided to hear the case of Bush v Gore and then decided to select who would be the next President of the United States.

    Americans' lack of understanding about their own Constitution was recently exemplified to me by a recently-retired naval Commander who told me that she thought that this Electoral College thing for choosing the President should be changed and that we should get our Congress to change it. I told her that our Constitution did not provide for the popular election of a President and that the States were in charge of that. The States choose how electors shall be chosen and most have a "Winner Takes All" approach but some apportion some electors according to how the popular vote went. I suggested that she ask her Governor and her State representatives to change how they chose their electors.

    NBC never reported that, when the US Supreme Court got involved, it was taking away the right of the State of Florida to apportion its electors. The top court that should have decided in this case was the Florida Supreme Court and, if they didn't decide the case or if a recount would have taken too long, the matter would have been thrown to the US Congress to decide whether or not to accept any electors from Florida, to accept the electors from all states save Florida or to decide the matter themselves.

    There was no crisis and NBC reporting that there was is another example of a story being sensationalized for ratings, which seems to be more important than NBC actually informing the viewers of the facts and what is really going on.

    Furthermore, none of the blogs I read, nor any of the radio or television stations I watched actually informed the public as to the facts of the Constitution. I did read one book well after Bush v Gore was settled stating that what the Supreme Court did was extralegal. I noted that the New York Times did have a story about how Florida's Supreme Court had final say and then they ignored this fact as soon as the case was heard by the Supreme Court of the US.

    So I think it's safe to say that everyone got the real story wrong.

    I'm really happy to see that John has gainful employment. I'm still looking for something full-time

The other line moves faster.