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March 12, 2015- By Steven E. Greer
NBC’s senior news reporter Brian Williams recently got into trouble because he was so bored of reading the teleprompter that he fanaticized about becoming an entertainer. He made up stories relating to the news like an actor fibbing on a late night talk show. But he was not alone, and the TV news bosses know it.
As ratings plummet for TV viewing as a whole, particularly TV news, the stodgy club of old white men that runs the news is struggling to recapture viewers at any cost. The TV news is now hyping weather storms so much that they are flat out making up fake storm names. The news is listing wind chill numbers instead of real temperatures, and even using animated weather maps that fool the viewer into thinking they are real satellite images. CNN is using absurd technology, like drones and holograms, and Fox is resorting the soft core porn by flaunting the legs and breasts of their female reporters.
But those are just style issue complaints. What is more concerning is that the actual content of the “news” is often wrong nowadays.
Bob Orr of CBS recently “resigned”, but he was infamous for making up sources. His favorite phrase was “sources say”, but those sources were nonexistent. What he was really doing was propagating rumors that were often untrue. For example, during the 2012 Newtown school shooting, he and others in the press were caught red-handed passing along false rumors disguised as “sources”.
Lara Logan, also from CBS, is another example. She was disciplined for producing a “60 Minutes” story using unreliable witnesses that were not properly vetted.
There are many more examples of national news getting the facts all wrong.
The evening news was made irrelevant long ago by faster better Internet sources, leaving only the morning news as the one chance for the network to make meaningful news shows. But they have failed miserably there too.
ABC’s Good Morning America hypes everything at the opening of the show as “Breaking overnight” even if it is old news. CBS This Morning attempts to be more serious, but their program now is literally a clone of the evening news for the most part. The only “news” of the morning CBS show is when they summarize the newspapers around the country. NBC’s Today Show is in chaos as Deborah Turness’ lack of a spine has allowed the overpaid talent to run the show. “Today” is so long now, at four hours, with so many cast members, that viewers cannot identify with it as a singular brand.
As Internet streaming sites, such as Hulu and Netflix, become more popular, draining viewers from cable and broadcast TV, the desperation of old media news will get worse. The evening and morning news will continue to jump the shark.
The networks need to euthanize TV news and pull the plug. This slow death is painful to watch. They should then focus all of their efforts on higher quality Internet news.
The ability to watch news on a large screen in one’s home is still in high demand. Ratings are declining because the current content is irrelevant and poorly produced, not because no one wants to get good news in video form. TV news is an antiquated model that needs to be replaced with Internet streaming news, on demand.
Once TV gets away from the “appointment viewing” model of old TV, it will be able to create higher quality edited videos of exclusive interviews or investigative reporting, without time constraints or the need to have Nielsen ratings. The only reason anyone will watch a video now is if it is truly unique. The days of having people watch TV because they were a captive audience are over. Producers will have to work harder and be more creative.
Fake news programs, such as “The Daily Show” or “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, actually have far better producing talent than the real news. Because they have to have original comedy sketches related to the news, the shows have staffs of highly educated people coming up with good content to watch. Ironically, the real news needs to take a lesson from the fake news.