August 2009 Archives

Convincinly Real

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The video ONN: Breaking News: Something Happening in Haiti is so close to a real news broadcast that I did not realize it was not one until they assumed the reporter was shot.  The news anchor speaks dramatically, the visuals are flashy, and they show the same visual over and over again.  The most convincing part, however, was their uncertainty with what exactly was going on.  The news anchor jumped between assuming there was a riot in Haiti, an election, and a parade.  Often, real news stories jump around as well, not giving clear information. 

The funniest part of this video is the news stories scrolling at the bottom... "Light rain halts search for missing children."

Drama, drama, drama.

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In the essay segment "TV stations are completely ratings driven-- and driven by consultants" written by Greg Byron, he states: "Crime is big--crime against the innocent even bigger.  If there's a sexual angle, it will be true as explicitly as the TV people dare to say it, pretending their disgust on each successive newscast.  And since people are fascinated with fire, photographers shoot lots of fires and news producers would run all they could get at the top of the show.  They'd throw out the day's stories and throw their whole staff at a big fire for 'team coverage' of any fire which still had big flames when the news crews got to the scene.  That it might be an abandoned old warehouse doesn't matter.  Viewers are drawn to spectacle and that makes yellow flames the lead story."

I found this to be very true in the local news I watched a few nights ago (and also wrote about in my previous blog entry).  The covered stories about runaway hitchhiking children, suicide, a girl who was beaten with a hammer by her boyfriend several years ago, and surprisingly enough they covered a fire.  For people who watch the news regularly, they must think the world is going down the toilet since only bad things ever happen on the news.  But if the news only covered fact, bad as well as good, would as many people watch it?  Probably not.  It wouldn't be as interesting to hear real stories and about how many people were not killed.  Maybe the drama of the news keeps people interested, like the drama in soap operas-- they have become regular viewers.  

This is one of the many reasons why I turn the TV off.

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There are thousands of reasons to just hit the power button on the remote and the local news is one of those reasons.  I avoid it because it is boring.  The news itself is not boring, but the way the news station includes more commercials and "coming up next" clips than anything else makes it yawn-worthy (and not because it is the 11 o'clock news).  In the "coming up next" clips, the reporters tell us all of the important information.  Therefore, when the real story comes on, they just repeat the same information.  In addition, there are commercial breaks every four minutes it seems.

Another reason I do not watch the news is that it is always depressing, with some weather and sports thrown in.  During this specific broadcast, we had a few crashes, a child luring, a suicide of a college student, children that were hitchhiking away from their foster parents, a house which burnt down and other depressing stories.  I am not saying the news needs to repeat happy rainbow stories, but after watching the news, I can't help but wonder along with everyone else: "What's this world coming to?" 

A few other points:

-In regards to the CMU student suicide, the reporter said "We don't normally report on suicide..."  Actually, I think they might report on suicide more often than they want to think.  Are they trying to skirt the topic?  Or are they trying to be more sensitive towards the issue?

-Also pertaining to the suicide, the reporters interviewed students.  One student on the verge of tears was speaking when a shirtless guy lingered in the background in the shot and walked back and forth.  It could have been avoided by choosing a better location.

-The news showed a house from which foster children ages 9, 7, 5, and 3 escaped.  Showing the house and only the house was fine.  However, later in the story, they showed that the house was on a busier road.  Immediately, I recognized the house and realized I have driven by there on a regular basis.  By revealing the location, I now will have a different opinion of the house.  It has to be a bad place, right?  Since four young children climbed over the fence and hitchhiked to get away from it.  Was it really necessary to show location?

-Finally, the way news reporters speak bothers me.  They tilt their heads side to side as they speak and raise their eyebrows several times.  It is very distracting.

Fluff instead of fact, why bother?

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My favorite part in John Campbell's comic: "A Famous Person Has Died" is when the news anchor shows the "hastily edited set of clips."  Often the news will show the same set of pictures of a story over and over again.  The audience can see it the first time and the second time, which is enough. 
Besides, why do the viewers need to see clips of the famous person who died?  They would probably rather hear details pertaining to the death.  I guess the news just needs to fill time with fluff since they sometimes do not know any real facts.  Reporting a big happening for the sake of reporting it without any real information is a waste of time.  They might as well ignore it if they are uninformed.
However, the news reporters probably cannot do this, or else they will fall behind the other reporters.

"...reward the reader with bright points throughout the story" (Clark, Scanlan 294).

One example of a story which followed this point is: "Cocaine hidden inside live turkeys, police say" on A2.  This three paragraph story managed to include interesting facts to the end.  It began by explaining that cocaine was surgically placed in the turkeys, the next paragraph went into more detail, and it ended with the information that the police found the cocaine because they noticed that the turkeys looked bloated.  It is an interesting point, who would have thought bloated turkeys could lead to a drug bust?  Strange...

"Never hype a lead" (Clark, Scanlan 291).

The story "Proper care urged to prevent amputations" on A8 does hype the lead.  The first sentence reads: "It costs $1,400 to cover the oozing sore on the diabetic's foot with a piece of skin..." (The Associated Press Tribune-Review).  The detail of the "oozing sore" is quite startling.  Does the reader need to feel disgusted when they read information on proper foot care for diabetics?  Is this hyped lead necessary? 

Boring stories and misleading headlines... what fun.

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Today's Tribune-Review included many stories which caught my attention... but not for any positive reasons.

An irrelevant story: The first story on the front page, "Planes, trains, automobiles: Numbers tell a story," is completely uninteresting to me.  There is no reason for me to care about how many people use Route 8 or the airport.  This article simply spouts of numbers which mean nothing.  The writer fails to relate these numbers to his readers.  What do the lower number of daily travelers mean to me?  The story is not front page material.

Misleading headline: Swine flu is apparently going to wipe out the entire country.  The article "Swine flu toll may hit 90,000" uses the word may quite a bit.  The usage is misleading.  Readers may assume that it is going to happen that way.  After reading the article, I learned that swine flu may "lead to as many as 90,000 deaths."  Further into the article, the writer mentions that it is a "plausible scenario" and that "30,000 to 90,000 people may die."  The article also mentions that the seasonal flu kills around 36,000.  Logic would say that the number falls into the predicted range of the swine flu.  The title is misleading and simply creates more hype of this flu.  I have been finding articles like this for the past several months, and all threaten impending doom.  I'll believe these articles when something more actually happens.

Manipulative advertising: There was an advertisement from the U.S. citizens Association which certainly jumped off the page with its big, bold print.  At first, it seems like any other story since the word "advertisement" is placed at the top right hand corner of the page in very small print.  They are misleading readers to think that it is a real article.  Also, they state that the president and the Democrats "want to bankrupt the nation with socialized medicine and socialist energy taxes."  First of all, I am sure it was not the goal of the president to bankrupt the country.  Second of all, they are using red scare tactics from the 50's.  Looking back on that decade, we wonder how people could have fallen for these scares.  Apparently these tactics are still being used today.

Too many negative facts-- the writer was baised: The article about texting was interesting.  The writer mentioned a woman named Jennifer Leigh who suggested that "Many teens seldom answer their cell phones and let the incoming calls go to voicemail, in order to train callers to text instead."  If you are a teenager, please tell me the last time you did this.  This line which the writer decided to include makes teenagers seem manipulative.  The other facts the writer uses makes teenagers out to be relationship-deprived.  The writer also includes that Leigh says that teenagers are a "relationship -stunted generation."  The writer is focusing on all of the negative points of texting.  If teenagers are texting more often, that means they are have more social interaction.  It may not be face-to-face, but it's still there.  I am not a texter myself, but after reading this article, I feel the need to defend it.

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