There’s a long-standing practice in local TV that I find disturbing. I’m talking about the personality-centered approach to promoting TV news.
I’m convinced that this is the wrong approach if the intention is to get more people to watch the news or to boost their news programs’ credibility. The way I understand it credibility is a result of consistent and excellent work. It’s not the other way around.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the local TV networks are not really after credibility. Maybe the target is just popularity. That makes sense after all most people here seem to equate popularity with credibility. Just consider the fact that in Philippine-style elections the most popular almost always wins.
So what’s the problem with using the personality-approach in promoting the news? For one, it smacks of show business, which is something this country doesn’t need more of. Giving the public more personalities to ogle at won’t do anyone any good. What they need — even if they may not necessarily want it — is better information.
Speaking of show business, it should be pointed out that there’s a lot of showbiz fakery going on in TV news. Here’s a classic from overseas.
This sort of thing also happens here. Next time there’s a live TV report about a big storm, take note of the reporter’s appearance. He/she will most likely be dripping wet. Keep an eye out too for the news anchors in the studio. Some of them like to wear rain clothes on such occasions as if there’s also rain inside the studio.
Of course, none of these crazy antics can compare to the ultimate fakery of all: Some news anchors don’t really know what they’re talking about. Not surprising since, with the exception of at least one, most of these anchors are just pretty faces who also happen to know how to project credibility while reading from a teleprompter.
Well, projecting credibility seems to be a big deal for TV news. I wonder though if this personality-centered approach would help correct the perception that TV news is the most stupid among the three traditional news media sources (TV, radio, print).
In case you’re wondering, here are the most common points against TV news:
too short, too shallow
pictures drive a story
superficial over substance
clichés in writing, reporting
Now let’s take a look at each one.
Too Short, Too Shallow
In this regard, the problem really is the medium. The average TV news report runs from about 1 minute and 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Seriously, can anyone really provide substantial reporting with such a limitation?
Pictures drive a story
It’s bad enough that TV news is driven by pictures or video to be exact, but now much of that video highlights not the story but the reporter. Making oneself the story seems to be the in-thing nowadays among TV reporters.
Superficial over substance
I suspect at some point in TV news history someone said, “Hey, it’s called an idiot box anyway so we might as well make our reports idiotic.”
But seriously, consider the fact that in TV news the structure of the reports are based on what is called “dramatic unity.”
Dramatic unity — The most common story structure for the broadcast news story is dramatic unity with its three parts: climax, cause and effect. Students should also understand the importance of an attention-getting lead in making sure that listeners hear and understand their stories. Such leads require a deft touch on the part of the writer. They may look easy to produce at first glance, but they are more difficult to do well than they appear.
The problem with this is that the most dramatic detail isn’t always the most important.
Cliches in writing, reporting
This one’s pretty obvious. Just listen to the closing sentences of TV news reports. One sports news reporter is particularly notorious in this regard. In most of his reports on Manny Pacquiao’s boxing matches he always says something like, “ngunit ang pinakamatinding sandata ni Manny ay ang kanyang puso.”
I asked a friend who used to work in the TV news industry what she thinks of the observation that TV news is the most stupid. Surprisingly, she said it’s true. She even sent me an email enumerating some reasons she says contribute to the stupidity.
thought i’d share this…
local tv news is stupid. allow me to enumerate some reasons:
1. in general people who apply for tv news on-cam work do so not because they want to be serious journalists. they just want to see their faces on tv and hopefully become famous. that is their main motivation.
2. most people who apply for the position of tv reporter have mass comm or other related degrees. writing and other “journalistic” skills are not at all honed in such courses given their generalized scope. it is not unusual to see a newbie tv reporter being deployed to cover complicated senate session or court hearings.
3. very little “writing” discipline is observed in tv news. grammar rules even in tagalog newscasts are practically ignored. this can be attributed to the fact that most script editors do not even bother to review the rules before they unleash their “editing” prowess on the reports submitted to them. this lack of “writing” discipline in the TV newsroom leads to the propagation of wrong writing rules invented by script editors who haven’t even heard of a dangling modifier.
4. in tv news, soundbyte is king. this antiquated rule forces the whole tv news production team to use short, keyword-centric phrases from their interviews. unfortunately, such phrases are usually just motherhood statements.
Interestingly, a recent study shows a link between a popular TV news source and misinformation in the United States.
Yet another study has been released proving that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation.
You can find the full survey report here.
So what’s the point of this rant? I have only two major points to make. The first one I address to the bigshots running the various TV news departments. If you really want to provide public service through information, please do better work. Focus on improving your output not on turning your reporters and news anchors into celebrities.
My second point is for the viewers. Don’t rely too much on TV news for information. Make sure to get additional information from other sources and use critical thinking in analyzing what you see and hear.
Actually, there’s a third point and it’s for both the TV news people and the viewing public.
Popularity Is Not Credibility.