Friday, February 27, 2009

Beware -- Your government watch dogs are fading

Alarm bells should be ringing in your ears by now. You've seen, heard and read about the plight of America's newspapers.

Like every other industry hit hard by the crashing economy, many newspapers, including some of the "giants," are closing down or are at least seeking protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Even in York, the local newspapers are feeling the pinch, and some staff has been laid off, others are working curtailed hours to save money.

The majority of Americans todaty have turned to the electronic media to get the latest news. It fits right in with the new generation's need to have immediate gratifcation in anything it does. But the turn-about has a hidden cost that these citizens aren't taking notice over.

The cost is about getting the facts -- the truth -- without bias or favor, fear or prejudice. That has always been the motto of most responsible newspapers (forget including the tabloids as bonafide newspapers!).

Newspapers go to great lengths to make sure the stories they present represent the facts without any slant in rhetoric. You, the reader, are to respond and make your own decisions about the facts given to you.

All opinions are limited to the editorial pages or articles clearly labeled. Columnists' works are labeled columns. Even an in-depth analysis is labeled as such. That was a responsibility each legitimate newspaper sought to keep straight, for your sake.

But that form of news presentation is rapidly biting the dust.

What is left is the electronic media, mostly television, and in some degree the Internet. So what is wrong with that?

Show my a television news channel and I'll tell you that you won't find one. The closest television came to legitimate news presentation was the original Cable News Network, known now by its letters CNN. When owner by Ted Turner, it held its work to a high standard and attempted to limit any casual comments by its anchors to a minimum. Ted Turner's other news spinoff, Headline News, was held to the same standard but was designed for those who can tune in only for a quick briefing of events. So its news stories were short and repeated over and over with updates as they came in.

Just the facts, ma'am.

But that has alll changed. Watch Headline News and you see shows with featured anchors who present everything from opinionated stories to full shows on a particular topic .... usually one that has some sex, violence or other oddity to it so they can hold your attention. Turn to CNN, and the same thing. The two channels are so closely similar it's hard to tell what the different purposes were anymore.

Then, you want even more opinionated viewpoints on the day's events, you can turn to MSNBC. The actual news are brief periods sandwiched in between such things as "Hardball," (sob), or "Keith Olberman," (who should go back to sports where he originated where they have the true liberties of using colorful story telling about events), and the latest dame of diatribe, Rachel Maddow.

And of course, the worst of the bunch, Fox News, which has such hypocrites as Bill O'Reilly, and Shawn Hannity and on and on. Why is Fox the worst? It is so slanted, so bad that they have to remind you every 15 to 29 minutes that their presentation is "fair and balanced." Give me a break.

So you see, while all these modern day electronic tricksters try to sway your opinion right or left, liberal or conservative, the newspaper staff continues to present the facts to you so you can create your own opinion about a subject or event.

See, you DO have a brain, and you ARE individual, and you have the RIGHT to your opinion. All you have to do is read the facts. Without bias or prejudice, fear or favor.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

TV's standards have slipped

There was a time when the technical standards for radio and television stations were pretty strict and regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. Things like deviations from assigned frequencies, audio levels and quality, video levels, and so on.

But times have changed.

In this computerized age, the computer takes precedence, not you, the TV viewer.

Example: On the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 4, on WGAL television, the Today show was televised as scheduled. But the station also wanted to display school closings because of weather conditions.

A public service, indeed. Much needed, no question about that. But what the station's computers do is squeeze the vertical portion of the Today show, but not the horizontal, so everyone looks like they shrunk and got fat.

There would have been a time the station would have been held to a higher, better standard: If you have to squeeze the picture, you do it proportionately.

What made it stand out like a sore thumb Wednesday morning was that there was a segment on the Today show which was showing how people age smoking vs. non-smoking, etc. So there we are, side-by-side photos of twins, and the "expert" (that in itself would be a future column to discuss!) is explaining how much "fatter" the one twin's face is compared to the other. Really? They both looked fat to begin with, because they were being transmitted in a distorted fashion.

C'mon, WGAL -- and other broadcasters -- program your computers so you can display a truthful proprotion of the scene being transmitted.

Our brains are being warped by enough weird crap and we don't need that to warp us further.