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The good and the bad of TV news

by LConners

KMOV.com

Posted on February 27, 2007 at 10:02 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 3:00 PM

WISE MEN TALK BECAUSE THEY HAVE
SOMETHING TO SAY ... FOOLS, BECAUSE
THEY HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING.
(PLATO)


Plato's quote is a guide for these blogs. I leave it to the reader to decide which applies.

You never cover good news, you only cover bad news. If I had a dime for everytime I've heard those statements ... well, I'd be writing this from my own island in the Bahamas. Still, I don't easily dismiss these complaints. They deserve a response.

First issue: Is there a lot of bad news on news reports?

Yes.

Can so much bad news be justified?

Yes. No. Maybe. Sometimes.

Even the Greek tragedian Sophocles ( 495 BC - 406 BC ) recognized that you will be criticized for presenting such stories. Sophocles stated: Nobody likes the man who brings bad news.

So why cover any bad news? Is it because bad news sells more newspapers, magazines and gets bigger radio and TV audiences?

There is no denying that when a major tragedy happens there is an increase of readers/listeners/viewers.

But is that a sole reason for reporting bad news? The answer is no. It is not the the sole reason, but the connection can not be denied. Despite public outcry and criticism, bad news does sell. I saw one journalism professor quoted as saying, “Fear is entertaining.”

Journalism Professor David Kurpius refers to a study of local TV news showing 26% of the time is spent on crime. On a day to day basis that percentage might be too high or it could be too low.

Here is one fact that is seldom challenged: Bad news is more likely to lead a newscast than good news.

Bad news might involve crime or it could involve a sex scandal, a bad economic report for the audience (such as closing of a major plant), but bad news will usually be the lead story.

A newscast does have good news, but regrettably, the image of all bad news is imprinted in the minds of the audience.

At News 4 we make an effort to balance our newscasts. Often, we have to report the bad news. Those stories might lead the newscast and might even dominate that newscast, still we do want good news stories in the news. They just might not lead nor dominate.

Almost every newscast includes lighter stories ... stories about kids doing good things ... stories that bring a smile to your face. It is important to you and to us that we have that balance.

Let me give you a personal perspective. I've been in broadcasting since 1963. In those 40 plus years I've covered, reported, read a lot of bad news type stories. Some have asked me is it hard for you to do so many bad news stories? The answer is yes, but I recognize that those stories must be covered and reported.

At the same time I'm glad when we can report good news, so I join you in that desire.

A final thought to keep in mind: The news beast must be constantly fed there's always another newscast just around the corner, maybe the next hour.

Every deadline must be met and what happens when that time comes and we have no news?

Former NBC News Anchor David Brinkley offered the answer: The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the emphasis, as if there were.

If you have a question or complaint about how/why certain news stories are covered .. please contact me.

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