OMGTV News! It’s Sensational!

By | January 22, 2016

Do you get irritated by the TV news anchors always throwing in extra adjectives to sensationalize their news stories.  Every story must be “astounding,” “gripping,” or “revealing.”

It is a relatively recent phenomenon.  The anchors do it to make the stories seem more important and more immediate for their viewers.  Just a little spin to add some dynamism.

It is like adding emoticons to the news.

This is just another nail in the coffin in what was our social contract with the TV networks to get our news from a reliable, objective source – a source that will tell us what is really going on.

The television news of Walter Cronkite, Lloyd Robertson, John Chancellor, etc. has gone the way of the dodo.  Now we have talking heads that don’t really know what they are talking about.  They are not investigative journalists any more.  They are supported by reporters who stand in front of green screens and act as if they are on the site of the action, when in reality they are in studios miles and miles away.  Travel costs are just too high.

The News also adds feature stories, like a story on Bell Canada’s Mental Health initiative.  Is it news?  Or a promotion run by the owners of the station.  While that promotion is heavily featured on CTV, owned by Bell, it is totally ignored by the other networks.  Coincidence?  Hardly.  And that’s just one obvious example.

Even the sports scores highlighted mirror the games that are carried by a particular network.  News has become another avenue for self promotion by the station.

Why is this happening?  Because TV news, and traditional television in general, is fighting for the relevancy it once had.   It no longer has the ratings it once had. That leaves the News shows trying hard to convince us that each story is critical.  If a story is “astounding,” “gripping,” or “revealing,” we are going to have to follow it.

There are two major factors why our interest in traditional TV News shows has deteriorated: 24 hour news stations and the internet.  Any time we want news, we don’t wait until 6PM or 11PM.  We want it NOW!  We go to a 24 hour news station, radio or TV.  Or we look on the internet.

Social media is always abuzz with the “what’s happening now.”  People are tweeting and posting stories that they hear about and pass on, whether they are true or not.  That’s a big problem with the internet – there is no mediation of the stories that validates them before they spread.  Not that TV news is without the same problem at times: spreading gossip that has no basis in fact.

The network TV news is fighting for its life and relevancy.  To make itself appear more important, and do it inexpensively, they add their emoticons and add sensationalism that used to be reserved for the tabloids to pump up their audience.

But in the long term they are undermining their own credibility and becoming less and less relevant.

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