What happened to objectivity and basic quality control in the media? What happened in separation of news, opinion and advertising? Disclaimer: I was in the news business for 20 years. Yes, it was eons ago. Then, our mandate was to objectively report vetted facts, investigate fraud, crime, waste, give the weather report, sports, with a sprinkling of human interest stories.
Then came a genre of quasi-news programming — lead by Entertainment Tonight in 1981 — infotainment with a news feel and format. Slow erosion developed. Advertiser store openings in newscasts. Reporters as spokespersons and sales pitchmen. Reporters interjecting their opinions. Reporters interviewing other reporters. Weak content. Psychobabble with no direction or credible foundation is the new norm.
For instance, AL.com, on its deathbed, reports last Sunday about Farrah Fawcett’s son’s jail release and Taylor Swift donating money to some charity, with zero mention of the Navy’s commissioning the day before of Mobile/Austal-built USS Montgomery. Zero. Austal has roughly 4,000 employees. Why the dis? The Press-Register trundles out of its grave three times per week with milquetoast content, bolstering its circulation numbers by littering yards with unsolicited sales flyers.
But wait! There’s more! Saturday night, well after Auburn defeated Arkansas State, WKRG reported the game was not over and showed highlights from the previous week Auburn vs. Clemson game. C’mon.
Having worked at both, I am embarrassed for them. Kick it old school. Bring back the grizzled editors, producers and news directors with bad attitudes. Regain some credibility. Cover what’s important to your community, not what some consultant trends as hot.
Broadcasters aren’t broadcasters any more. They are investment bankers. When I think of local television, it’s all weather and tons of screaming car commercials — cheap programming, über bottom-line driven. Making online media compelling and work profitable hasn’t been figured out yet. Good luck.
Me? I like the feeling of a newspaper in my hand. Good news coverage is compelling story telling, getting the facts right, evoking an emotion. There are those who do it right. Lagniappe rocks.