Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why print is still essential

The interesting thing about journalism today is that television is considered by many people as the top of the ladder. Many journalists aspire for a television career and certainly the public thinks of TV news as being the desirable of the mediums.

And frankly when there were people such a Edward R. Murrow working, TV had great potential. Under the current market conditions though, it no longer has.

Nationally, I'm convinced that people don't want news, they want fluff. They buy into the perception that a talking head such as Bill O'Reilly is a "newsman." O'Reilly is a TV personality, not a reporter. His point of view is no more valid than anyone's else.

It's cheaper for FOX. MSNBC and CNN to put on a talking head spewing their empty observations than to pay for reporters and producers to go and report events, issues and personalities.

There are always exceptions to these failures, but for the most part, TV fails to live up to its potential on the local and national levels in this country.

Consider the following:

* Local newscasts in markets such as ours (108th in country) can not afford to produce enough local content to fill a 90- minute block, but because of the conventions governing the industry they put on a 90-minute block any way. They fill it with endless weather forecasts, worthless man in the street reaction stories, and stories they pick up from their networks.

* They no longer can afford to send out reporters to stories and instead are now asking camera people to shoot video AND ask questions, in essence replacing reporters.

* Most TV news people play the game of working in an area such as ours just so they can get some clips for their resume. It's hopscotch. In too many cases, there is much sense of knowing and understanding a community.

And yet folks will hold their event for the convenience of TV. I've waited at numerous press conferences waiting for the TV crews to show up. My being there on time means nothing. I'm just the print guy who will actually stay for the entire event and give it the coverage it deserves.

Don't get me wrong, I get plenty of respect. This entry isn't about print guys getting shoved around by the TV people. I even like some of the reporters who I know roll the eyes at the stuff they have to do.

The fact remains that local TV does a lousy job of reporting about issues and politics. If a story can't be shoe-horned into a two minute spot and if it's not camera friendly, let's skip it for something quicker and cheaper.

Like interviewing people in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart about how they feel about gas prices. I haven't seen one of those yet that surprised me. Imagine that, people don't want to pay $3 a gallon for gas.

Is that news? No. It's filler.

Local print, whether its on paper or the web, remains the medium for examining something in-depth. In most cases, TV has chosen to be shallow in the name of ratings and bottom line, despite its great potential.

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. Yes, TV folks will be pissed at me. These are my words alone.


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