What happened to real news?


Yesterday, I attended a presentation by Alina Falcon, Telemundo’s executive vice president of News and Alternative Programming, in the School of Communication. She spoke about the changing role of the media, and one comment particularly struck me. She said that today, there is increasingly less unscripted, serious news; it is being replaced with straight talk, interviews, and other filler that costs less to produce.

Falcon’s remark resonated with me because, when I watch news programs, I feel uncomfortable during certain segments that can’t really be classified as news.

Though whether entertainment news is news is a controversial topic among journalists, that’s not close to what I mean.  I’m not saying that entertainment stories shouldn’t be on the news.  Some people really are interested in celebrities, TV shows, and the like. At least these stories deliver information to which the average person isn’t already privy. But news programs often take this too far, as in shamelessly plugging their own networks’ shows.  You’ll find stories raving about the “must-see” season of The Voice (does anybody even watch this, anyway?) on NBC, but the show isn’t so much as mentioned on ABC or CBS.

Then there are the stories that can’t be labeled “newsworthy” by any standard.  The kind entitled “Six Places You May Have Misplaced Your Keys” or “Eight Things You Shouldn’t Say to Strangers.”  These types of stories have literally no new or valuable information.  I mean, if a cameraman from the news station came up to me right now, I could cover the same story off the top of my head.

The best is when the programs show you teasers from upcoming stories. “What was the unbelievable item a student found in her lunch?”  “Coming up: You’ll never believe what happens in this video!”  “Stay tuned for the shock a mother got when she opened her front door!”

You wait a half hour to find out.  Sometimes, the story really is surprising, like if the girl found a diamond ring in her sandwich. Still, it’s cruel that programs leave you hanging for so long to hear about it. Other times, the content is just short of being as engaging as a black screen: the video is of a guy failing to balance on one foot, or the mother was checking her mail until she realized it was Sunday.

This kind of programming is embarrassing to watch, and should be infinitely more embarrassing to air. I challenge networks to spend some money and give us real news or to remove this façade by at least transferring these filler clips to differently categorized programs.  Otherwise, networks would be better off showing sitcom reruns during the time slots these stories waste.

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