Tuesday, December 25, 2018

No, Lester Holt is NOT a news anchor

Walter Cronkite was a true journalist, a real TV anchor, and editor of his nightly news broadcast. So were many others, including Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. But that's not the case anymore.
     An anchor was what the word implied: an anchor, anchored in a newsroom, sometimes in New York and other times in Washington, D.C. They relied on a network of reporters worldwide, who gathered the information, put it together for a piece of the airtime their anchor afforded to it.
     A recent promotional spot aired by NBC (recent to me, it may have been aired many times before and I just didn't see it) the network referred to Lester Holt as their “NBC Nightly News” anchor.
     That made me think about the structure of the broadcast news organizations today.
     Lester Holt is not an anchor in the true sense of the term. I would bet he isn't even the editor-in-charge of the program's content. It shows how distorted and diluted the news has become overall.
     There was a day when the news was presented through the anchor by reporters on the scene, without opinion or slant, and left up to the viewers to make up their own minds about the information they are getting.
It was a direct reflection of the guidelines of earlier newspapers: News presented “without fear or favor, bias or prejudice.”
     Now I must admit the newspapers, even the largest of them, have been constantly violating those principles over the last decade. Even if the stories presented were on facts alone without the interjected opinions, quips and odd looks by the reporters, newspapers and television have slanted their coverage by omitting and ignoring covering some stories.
     It is a sad day for dedicated journalists such as myself. Because, as a retired journalist, I see how stories or ignored, and others skewed to direct the readers/viewers opinions to a pre-determined judgment that may or may not be accurate or true.
     If you don't believe me, record a television newscast, put all the words into writing. The, strike out all the “descriptive” and opinionated words that are not actual facts and see what you have left. The half-hour broadcast would be reduce to less than 10 minutes.
     The rest is opinion terms, sometimes mostly uninformed and inaccurate predictions of what would happen next, and statements how good or bad people should feel about what happened.
     Back to the original focus of this editorial.
     Lester Holt is NOT a news anchor. He IS a corporate showboater. NBC flies him and a crew to the scene of a developing story they think will highlight point of view to be promoted later. Besides the fact that officials have to spend time and support (funded by your tax money of course) to a crew for TV coverage that could have been better spent taking care of the event, it appears to demonstrate to viewers that the network doesn't really believe their local level reporter cannot handle the coverage they are paid to do, or just plain showboating to the public to try to get higher viewer ratings which, in turn, of course, translates to getting more money for commercials.
    Either way, officials should not be cooperating in providing and supporting a “glamorus production” of a broadcast by any network. They should give reporters the facts, of course, but not assisting in a production.
     No, Lester Holt is NOT a new anchor. He IS a showboater. The true facts of the news are buried beneath the haze and sour smell of the show coating.
     If the other news “anchors” and going on scene on the other networks, then they fit into the same category.
     So, a word of advice to you: Do NOT believe everything you are hearing and seeing on the network news shows. It doesn't have the credibility of true factual news content anymore. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

When does "breaking news" become broken???

Watching local television news the past year or more, I noticed that there's been a lot of "breaking news" stories.
    The usual red colored title slide, the bold words "Breaking News," and the audio swish, whoosh or drum, and then the anchor says "here's breaking news, just out of ....(naming a town).." and so on.
    But as you watch the different regular and ad-slot updates continuing through the day, that "breaking news"  is repeated over and over again. Sometimes it continues to be repeated in the evening newscasts.
    Anyone with any kind of sense of normality realizes that a news story only "breaks" one time.  From then on, it's either a repeat  or an update. It can't break every half hour through the day.
    Once it breaks, it has been broken.
    Usually a story "breaks" with few details. But it doesn't "break" again because of new details.  It is an "update."
    Your local TV channels are trying to razzle-dazzle you that they are "first," or "the best" with the news, by conning you into thinking a new story just broke when it's really old and just as a new update.
    It becoming entertainment and no longer really news. They want to keep you on their channel, and not to drift to another station, so everything has to appear new, or fresh, with music, sound effects and visual effects -- sometimes the visual effects or video clips shown over narration are so out of touch it looks like an outright joke to others in the business of journalism.
    We have become the consumers of information that, not our fault, doesn't even match up to the criteria of true journalism.
    It used to be you should meet the basic questions of journalism: who, what, where, how, when ... and possibly why.  The who, what, where, how and when used to be the basic criteria to let a story run and give you that information.  It may take a later update ... sometimes days later ... to explain a "why."
    Now, so a TV broadcaster can create an impression that it knows everything going on before anyone else, you'll be fed a "what" and nothing else, or possible coupled with a vague "where."
    Newspapers always know it as fast as a TV or radio newscaster, but since there are deadlines for printing a paper, they have time to gather answers to most of the "w" questions before dishing it out to you.
    Unfortunately, with no deadline looming for Web site publication, newspapers now are also starting to drift into the land of "don't know much yet" journalism.
    Channel 8 in Lancaster is an example of the outlandish. It has 2.5 hours straight of newscasts in late afternoon and early evening, usually divided into half-hour segments although they claim it's 3 separate newscasts. one at 4, one at 5, and one at 6. The only difference is the so-called celebrity anchors are changed around to make things appear different.
    But the same stories are repeated and repeated again, If they label one "breaking," it's "breaking news" several times and again in later broadcasts.
    The cruelest thing they do to you is deliberately leave out some information on a story for one program and add it to the next program -- and say so by saying something like "there's more details in the 6 o'clock news" -- to force you to spend another hour of sitting and watching only to find out the extra details which probably were minimal at best.
    They need the ratings and that's how they con you into watching repeating stories. The higher ratings, the more commercial sponsors they can get and the higher price they can charge for commercials to make money. Lots of money.
    If the TV broadcasters took journalism serious, you'd have one "breaking story" ID only for a particular story and follow-ups or up-dates from then on. So when you see the fiery-red "Breaking Story" on your screen, you truly are getting something new just occurring.
     Only then you can trust your TV news hacks.
 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Their "investigative reporting" is "top-notch"????

There's "who, what, when, where, and why" basic questions in journalism. I have to ask "why" the so-called investigative reporters at Lancaster's WGAL-TV avoided answering the basic "who" question on a local important topic. 

They report the state and City of Harrisburg have filed a suit against "a number of companies" over the botched rebuilding and the botched building a new incinerator plant. 

The station NEVER mentioned who the subjects of the suit are. If the suit was filed, then the defendants are public record. What kind of intelligent and responsible journalism is this? Has the news really gotten this bad? 

And they advertise they have the best investigative team? 

Wow.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Network news picks and chooses

March  28, 2018 -- NBC Nightly News, take note: One day you featured a New York City firefighter who was killed fighting a fire and few days later the funeral procession, while in the very same basic time period, TWO York, PA firefighters were killed in a firefighting event, and you didn't mention it then and later didn't mention the public service for them today which firefighters from California to Canada and many other states attended. Why is one firefighter in NYC more special than others elsewhere? Perhaps NYC was easy to cover and you are too lazy to find the news elsewhere, or are you spoon-fed issues to report??? You pick and choose, which causes a slanted, biased presentation of the news.

The local TV affiliate, WGAL, did present extended coverage of their news broadcast in honor of the fallen firefighters.  But the affiliate did fall short by not committing broadcast time for the actual service eith on the primary broadcast channel 8.1, or their side channel, 8.2. Instead, they streamed it on the Internet. Not everyone in the subsidiary's coverage area is network or Internet savvy.