Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rant Series - News Flashes and News

I have a few rants to get out of my system, but they should be separated, so this is the first one - NEWS FLASHES AND NEWS.

Dear local news (and even cable news, but mostly local news):

There are VERY few things that require a news flash in our little city of Milwaukee. The Falk explosion? Yes. The killing/dying/assassination of a Personage of Note? Sure. Declarations of war or peace? Yes. Tornado coming? OK. 27-car pile up on I-94? Yes. Helicopter crash in the lake? Yes.

"There's a possible fire, maybe in a warehouse, somewhere in the Valley, and you can see the smoke from the freeway!" is NOT breaking news. It's pre-breaking news. It's not even news. It's just pre-breaking chit-chat, perhaps.

When you have details: when you know if people are dead or OK or hurt; when you know the location of the incident; when you know, even basically, WTF is going on...THEN you have breaking news.
As a follow-up, once the news has broken, and you have details, and you have had your "Breaking News" flash that interrupted regular programming, do NOT have a news flash every 5 minutes with every little tiny detail (or even no new details) that comes to light. Save it, and do another flash in, say, a half hour, when you'll probably have even MORE details. I hate seeing reporters and talking heads standing around re-iterating everything that's already been said, and said many times already.

Speaking of reporters standing around - here's another peeve. Weather "news". I like to know the weather as much as the next person. I want to know if there's a tornado in the area, or if flooding rains are expected, or a huge snowstorm is on the way. That's all well and good.
HOWEVER, when you send reporters to different locations to pick up bits of snow and show the camera and say "Oooo...snow!" for EIGHT SOLID HOURS....well, it's a bit much. We live in Wisconsin. Most of us have seen snow - way too much of it, in fact. We know what snow is, what it looks like, that it needs to be shoveled, and that we should be careful driving in it. We have windows that show us how deep it is "out there". There is never a reason for "breaking news" for a snowstorm.
We all know what a crawl is on the bottom of the screen. You use it for tornado/storm watches and warnings. This is sufficient. You can even have the radar on the side of the screen. We don't need more. We don't need reporters and talking heads for EIGHT HOURS talking about nothing but snow. There *is* actual news happening, too, and we'd like to know about that.
Here's an idea. Be the station that only shows the crawl at the bottom and the radar on the side, and get on with normal programming! I bet your ratings will soar, not plummet. "That's a level-headed station, right there", people will say. "They're good because they don't panic, and don't show us snow for eight hours".

This rant is over.

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