Fire Pretty, News Bad
Fire Pretty, News Bad
In Greg Byron's article "TV stations are completely ratings driven," Byron states that news stations are often concerned with flair over substance. An old warehouse caught on fire will be covered more quickly and more completely than a prerecorded segment on healthcare. Though, the abandoned building may have been in an isolated part of town, and the fire was contained, there's something about the sight of flames that draws in viewers as though they were moths.
Of course, there is a part of each of us that must understand the ploys. Reporters have to work, too. If the people involved with the news want to continue to be involved with the news, they need to attract viewers. If a consultant tells a news director that he/she will see a 10% increase in ratings if an inconsequential fire is covered and the healthcare segment is bumped, well, it just seems like good business. Is there really that much of a problem?
If the practices were solely evolved around elevating the importance of seemingly insignificant topics, then no, probably not.
However, reporters are instructed to extract emotion from any source possible. If this means exhorting witnesses or grieving families, so be it. As Byron points out in his article, "Reporters want to capture emotions so badly, they completely forget any notion of allowing privacy or personal dignity to grieving victims or their families." A clear example of this is the coverage of Michael Jackson's memorial. Now, overall coverage for the event itself is not where the issue lies. The problem arose when Michael Jackson's daughter, Paris, spoke, breaking down into tears in the midst of declaring her father the best in the world. To everyone watching this would have probably just been seen as a touching moment. However, clips of this occurrence were shown over and over again. In a few days time, news anchors began to question whether or not Paris was asked by her family to create this spectacle, in hopes of swaying the judge in the custody battle. For a week it was impossible to turn on the news without seeing a clip a girl crying at her father's funeral.
When the news begins to value rating over respect, the increase in viewership is simultaneous with the decrease in humanity.