Contrary views on the TV newsBy Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
At a recent campus-based forum on television and broadcast journalism, we were asked some questions that challenged our previously stated views on what constitutes nonnews on local TV. A big bone of contention turned out to be our view that most “news” stories about fires, accidents and crimes are really not newsworthy, and shouldn’t take up as much time as they do on nightly newscasts.
We defended our controversial position by pointing out that a newscast’s running time is limited, so most of the items included in it should be of significant value to viewers and their lives.
What good will it do me if I’m informed that so-and-so got into an altercation with such-and-such and was hurt in the exchange of blows?
Altercations happen all the time, so why focus on this fight and include it in a newscast, over the 10 or so similarly petty conflicts that occurred that day?
Most probably, the answer to that question would be that there was “something” about this particular altercation that was “different,” more interesting, melodramatic or otherwise more “colorful,” that made it “stand out.”
Please note that all of those perceived and stated qualities communicate nothing significant to viewers, over something more interesting and colorful—which are subjective entertainment terms not related to an event’s objective significance.
TV news time is limited, so it should be reserved for real news that impinges on viewers’ key concerns and lives. If the newscast’s time is freed from having to report predictable and insignificant crimes, disasters and accidents, there would be a lot of time left for the coverage of real news, like issue-based events and foreign news, which are generally ignored by local newscasts, because they are deemed to be “boring” or “difficult” for “ordinary” viewers to understand or relate to.
And yet, it is these items that could have a significant effect or repercussion on viewers’ lives! Why should “interesting” or “entertaining” items be preferred to them?
And isn’t the presumption of viewers’ lack of interest in foreign or issue-related events an implied insult that demeans local televiewers’ ability to think and analyze?
Fact is, it is some TV news people’s own mental or attitudinal limitations that make them inimical to the coverage of significant news—plus their felt need to not just inform viewers but to also entertain them with “colorful” news coverage for TV ratings’ sake.
At the forum, we were also criticized for our “petty” comments about newscasters’ “stylish” appearance and “dramatic” delivery of the news. We pleaded guilty to being ticked off by such excesses or distractions, but defended our critiques by pointing out that it was our way of reminding on-cam TV news people that it is the news that’s important, not the anchors or reporters who deliver it.
The truth is, most news anchors are simply news readers, who deliver what other people have researched and written, so they shouldn’t call as much attention to themselves as they do.
This is not to disparage the importance of news anchors, because they help provide a newscast with the credibility and dependability needed to make it easy for viewers to trust its reportage of the news. But, it’s still the news that’s all important, so news readers should be of service to it, not to themselves.
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