By Walter Brasch
Several TV networks covered the Rose Parade.
ABC, NBC, RFD, the Hallmark network, and Univision had frequent interruptions to unleash commercials on us. The Home and Garden network ran the two hour parade uninterrupted—except for endless on-air self-promotion about HGTV and its programs.
The networks had commentators who chatted with each other and seemed to spend more time enjoying being on air than in reporting the parade.
They aren’t unusual.
TV news—including parade coverage—has become more of a personality-based medium than a news medium. The Happy News TV anchors chat with each other. A few seconds here. A few seconds there.
“With Tonight’s weather forecast is Susan Brown” has been replaced by: “Hey, Suze, so what’s up with the weather?” To which the forecaster responds, “Well, Jimbo, looks like you’ll be driving to work tomorrow in a bit of snow.” Jimbo, of course, responds with some inane happy talk about wishing he had an SUV, and then Suze mentions she likes the snow because she enjoys skiing. Then, she discusses the weather forecast, which is usually accurate for what happened 10 years ago but often is partially or completely wrong about the week-long projections.
At the end of every segment filed by a field reporter, the anchor says something profound like, “Thanks Megan, for that very interesting and informative report about the supermarket opening.”
TV management long ago brought in high-priced news consultants who think that the babbling patter between the field reporters and talking heads makes them more likeable—more human. Gives us insight into their personalities.
The news consultants—and the news directors—and the TV personalities are wrong.
We don’t care about what they ate for dinner, their predication of who will win the bowl game, or how tough they had it driving to the studio. TV news should not be a modified Facebook posting. Just give us the news, weather, and sports. More important, please try to give us at least as much news as sports—and, perhaps, as much in-depth information about government as you do about weather. Frankly, we don’t care that much about what the temperatures were 10 years ago, what caused a thermal inversion, or how you’ll be cheering for your alma mater in the Sand Dust Bowl. We do need to know why there is a budget impasse and how it affects each of us.
And, please, when hosting parades, give us facts about the floats and bands, and some behind-the-scenes news—and let us hear and see the parade, and not your ceaseless blathering.
[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor emeritus of mass communications. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania.]