Thursday, August 31, 2006

Brain-damaged nightly news

Here is an example of exactly what I don't want from my nightly news broadcast: the nightly fashion report. That's not to say that Ms. Couric will be anything less than an excellent evening news anchor. She can read from a teleprompter just as well as anyone else.

That is to say that CBS news doesn't have an entirely serious approach to news journalism. There are most likely innumerable women in America who could be perfectly good broadcast news anchors and who wouldn't need multi-million dollar advertising campaigns to convince the public that they are "serious". But given that both Katie Couric and Tom Brokaw are alumni of "The Today Show", there is apparently something about spending years doing interviews with, say, diaper manufacturers over no-leak linings, that just screams "this person is the trusted voice of America" to network executives.

As I and others have mentioned before, the problem with the networks news broadcasts is the progressively fluffier content that they adopt. A typical 30-minute networks news broadcast has a large chunk of time devoted to commercials, more time devoted to the one millionth status report about John Mark Karr, even more time devoted to security camera footage of a New Jersey mom spanking her kids in a mall parking lot to please the affiliates, and a "heart-warming" final segment devoted to the little old lady with 42 cats who donated her bingo winnings back to her local church group. In other words, NOT NEWS!

What I would really love to see from one of the big three networks is a 30-minute program of news for masochists. I want news that might actually challenge me to think, at least for a few seconds, to understand what it means, not news that, as the Dan Rathers of the world might put it, is more exciting than "a cowpoke on the wrong end of a cattle prod". Besides, all of the network news anchors pretend that they are citizens of the world, so why can't they treat their audience that way? If the parliament of Bulgaria topples its government in a 167 to 123 vote, I want to know. If Great Britain moves 1000 troops from Diego Garcia to Sierra Leone, I want to know. If Michael Jackson moves to Saudi Arabia because they don't sell "Huggies for Men" in the United States, that is not news and I do not care.


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