Like anything and everything else in life, changes tend to be, for the most part, gradual in nature; more evolutionary than revolutionary.
Nothing better highlights this concept than TV programming. As the viewing habits, viewer sensibilities and the production economic factors all merge into creating the paradigm shifts we experience as the final results.
Of course it is incumbent upon the programmers to insure that the new trends are always keeping up with the audience viewing preferences, so constant feed back helps keep the new programming models in synch with the end users, in this case the viewing audiences.
Examples of that abound. We have seen over the past five years in the US a dramatic programming change that seems to have rejuvenated the bottom lines of the major networks by steering further and further away from traditional programming of drama and sitcom programming spots toward more and more of the so called Reality shows.
Reality shows tend to cost much less, create instant appeal, and when their formats start to fade they can easily get replaced by another and another. We have seen the likes of “American Idol” and its clones, “Who wants to be a Millionaire?”, “Deal or No Deal”, “Big Brother”, “The Amazing Race” etc… And much like their displaced programming, they too can spawn new shows as well as clones across the Networks.
Now that being said, the audience showed a predisposition to that new style of programming, and reinforced in the process the new programming paradigm shift, ergo we continue to experience that evolutionary change.
It seems that the changes did not stop there, as the logic of it implies … “What is good for general programming must be good for the News reporting as well”. And there lies a danger if such a trend in News reporting persists without the viewing audience responding with a strong and unified feed back about their opposition to it.
From a viewer’s perspective, news has two distinct and separate facets to it; one, the reporting of the news and second, the analyzing of the news that is being reported.
What I see happening is the intentional blurring of the distinction between reporting and analyzing; and that presents a dangerous precedent. If it is left unchecked, we might as well get our News from Jay Leno, David Letterman or John Stewart shows or better yet from “Saturday Night Live” SNL show.
As a viewer, I like to get the news as raw news, objective facts; whether words, or images or both. I like to get my news whole, like the truth; one seeks the whole truth and nothing but the truth; partial news in itself is a form of censorship slanted towards favoring the unsuppressed side of the events.
Also as a viewer, I like to watch, read and/or listen to commentary and news analysis; whether such analysis is within the context of the news briefing or separately is immaterial as long as it is labeled as such … commentary and analysis; which to me will imply I am hearing someone else’s opinion and interpretation and not only the objectives facts of the matter; and I can take it or leave it.
What we see today goes even beyond such blurring of the implied distinction between reporting, analysis and commentary; we see and hear the reporter’s emotions about the events being reported. More so, the reporters are specifically asked to comment on what is unfolding? Now is that reporting or commentary? The reporters are seldom covering both sides of an issue, how can they analyze and comment with only the half of the facts they are privy to and are reporting on?
I like to contrast that with examples of events that are one sided by their very own nature. Example in point, I did not mind seeing a tearing Walter Cronkite reporting on a failed NASA space shot. I did not mind seeing reporters emote about the 9/11, or the Oklahoma bombing horrible tragedies. Showing one’s humanity when it is obviously called for is more than acceptable to me as a viewer.
What I object to is when emotions are squandered describing civilian buildings being destroyed, without the benefit of knowing why? Is that too much to ask? This is a classical case that begs redress.
One glaring example, to demonstrate the point, was the “emotional” Richard Engel of NBC Nightly News reporting on the bombing of a building in Beirut, without probing why a particular building was targeted, could it be that Hezbollah was launching rockets from one of its balconies, aimed at Israeli civilians at the end of their lethal trajectories?
That was a classical example of a reporter, on the ground, privy only to the images he is recording, passing judgment on what he sees and with his analysis being grossly one sided and hardly encompassing the facts that needed to be un-covered and which were blatantly ignored in the process.
Another example, the case of the CNN correspondent Robertson is well documented in the article “Image and reality in Lebanon: CNN spin obscures truth”
by Ami Isseroff.
To me that represents the end of objectivity in reporting. The news now is a TV drama show at its best or a reality show at its worst; with the reporters acting as the judges in a contest!!
The reporters now are supposed to guide us as to when we ought to cry, when we are expected to get angry and when to sigh when seeing only their one sided segment of an event, with the prodding of an anchorman openly eliciting their reactions. That to me represents a reality show, with all its negative connotations in tow.
I, for one, prefer my news factual and objective and I want my analysis balanced and multi-dimensional; short of that I might as well hear the version of the news from Jay Leno or John Stewart each with their unique satirical slant.
We as the viewing audience need to assert our views in this matter; we cannot and should not accept the blurring of the distinction between reporting, commentary and analysis. We need to let the News network executives in on our needs, desires and our viewing standards. They need to know that we prefer to watch drama shows, and reality shows in a different time slots than during our news reporting and commentary time slots.Israel Bonan
Original text copyright by Israel Bonan, 2006.
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