Saturday, January 03, 2009

Stay Tuned

Herewith a series of exchanges between me and our local Fox News channel. I do NOT watch the national Fox News--just can't stand it--but the local news comes on at 10 o'clock. Their catchy little promo for themselves is "At 10 it's news, at 11 it's history."

Well, I just go nuts at their choice of stories. So occasionally, I pop off an email to them. This one is from a couple of months back--hence the reference to stories no longer in the news cycle.

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To: News Director, Local Fox Network
Subject: News Choice

Mr. News Director—

I am writing to protest the choice of news at WPMT.

Two nights ago, I watched your newscast at 10 p.m. One of the stories that aired was footage from somewhere in India, where people dropped babies from a height on to mattresses below. The explanation of this salacious story gave no indication why on earth it was of ANY interest anywhere, especially central Pennsylvania.

I was appalled--first, why that story? Second, how many dumb people seeing it might decide to do just that. And third, there are genuine stories that could be covered. For example, the story of Sergeant German, a young soldier who was injured in Iraq--burned over 90 % of his body. He recently died. That story has all the human interest you could possibly hope for, and actually has some merit for an audience anywhere.

For a long time, I have been disgusted at the news stories you air that are from outside this area. Most seem to be chosen because they are sensational. I will stop watching your news at 10 as long as this type of stories is your standard fare.

KGMom
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Dear KGMom,

First I want to thank you for writing FOX LOCAL NEWS about your concerns over our story coverage of the babies in India being dropped from the building.

I also read the story on the internet this weekend about the marine who died from his burns. That story most likely will be moving on our news services in the next day or two.

The baby story also came to us from both our FOX News Service and CNN, where we also have a news service contract. It also aired on the FOX News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, BBC World, and the other local television stations in our area.

In our 10 pm newscast, we try to present a broad view of the events taking place not only in our communities and the United States, but across the globe. Our objective is to provide to our viewers the information that comes to us on a daily basis. By offering an hour of evening news we can provide more stories. We do not expect everyone to agree with every story we place in a newscast.

But we feel, it is better to inform our viewers this is going on somewhere in the world than to ignore the cultural differences outside of our lives.

I do believe that our viewers are intelligent enough to understand that this ritual should not duplicated in our society, nor would it be tolerated.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Mr. News Director

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Mr. New Director:

Your comment that what Fox Local News tries to do is "present a broad view of the event taking place not only in our communities and the United States, but across the globe" is almost ludicrous on its face.

If the baby story had been aired with a context of here's what the cultural norms are in India, here's how some Indians view their children, here's what Hindus believe on a given subject, and THEN showed the dropping babies story, I might be convinced.

But, the typical approach of Fox Local News is to give 4 teasers about an upcoming story, and then finally air the story for 30 seconds. No context is given, no greater understanding of the world. In fact, what you do is the exact opposite of what you claim: you really show video that has shock appeal and give almost NO understanding of why what is shown on the video might be happening. So people in central Pennsylvania can walk away from the news shaking their heads and saying what crazy people those folks in India are.

I have not looked up the other news sources you cited (CNN or BBC) to see if and how they presented this story, but I will.

I appreciate the answer, but I do find it unsatisfying to my primary concern--video shown simply because of its shock value.

KGMom

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Yes, to all my astute readers who mutter--hasn't she had this battle before? I have written about it, here and here in relation to weather forecasting. Yes, it's a perennial itch of mine that I just can't get scratched! Thanks for listening. . .stay tuned!

15 comments:

Anvilcloud said...

It's good to keep them on their toes a bit. They might think a little more deeply the next time.

Lynne said...

Stories aired or reported for no other reason than sensationalism (ratings and veiwer numbers) make me scream. Get after them Donna!

Ginger said...

How interesting. At first I thought, Wow, that took some energy. And then I realized that I get a bee in my bonnet about some things and put plenty of energy into telling people what's what, as well. I do agree with you that there's no good or even ethical reason to put gratuitous stories like that one into news reports....

And on the cheery side, Happy New Year! I've kept dropping in on your posts via Bloglines.

troutbirder said...

KGMom
You hit the nail on the head. It's appaling what is promoted as "news". I personally find the endless hours given over to cable on child murders. At best they are local not national news. And it goes on and on forever.

Mary C said...

Donna, I'm glad you go through the trouble of explaining your dissatisfaction with your local media. Not everyone would do that, yet if more folks did it's possible the station would listen. Heaven knows these stations and networks depend heavily on high numbers of viewers to keep themselves on the air. I, on the other hand, have stopped watching TV, except for local sports events or other special showings. But as for news channels, etc. I don't bother to watch or listen anymore. Call me Miss-Ignorance-is-Bliss. I'll get my news from the Internet if I'm so inclined to know what is going on (especially nationally and internationally). My husband and I have even discontinued our newspaper subscription because of their biased views on certain subjects, especially in politics.

egretsnest said...

Keep 'em on their toes. Honestly, I dread it when there is a big storm coming because getting local weather predictions about potential snow or weather alerts is really difficult without watching local news. But, outside of that situation, we simply don't watch local news, ever. We get national/world news from NPR and John Stewart and find we get along pretty well on local stuff from our local small town free newspapers that come weekly. I occasionally read our local newspaper online. Local news is simply wretched. I will say I'm impressed you got a response . . . I've complained and been ignored so there's that, at least. :)

NCmountainwoman said...

I check our nearest Fox station for early weather. I'm certain the news director just laughs when he hears from me yet again. Like you, I know it won't make a whit of difference, but sometimes I just can't help myself.

JeanMac said...

Way to go!

Jayne said...

You go Donna! Most people (me included) would not take the time to point those things out, and it is exactly what they needed to hear.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

American news coverage is terrible, local and national. It is geared to entertainment not enlightenment. The National 24 hours news broadcasts could do better coverage with less repetition. I am often concerned at the stories that get no coverage that I think are important.

Americans are often seen as very ignorant about people, cultures and issues around the world not to mention alternative views of the established propoganda views of the government.
A good critical media could go a long way to improving this situation. Unfortunately, they are part of the problem.

Ironically, Aljezeera gives much better, fairer and broader coverage. Most Americans are denied this source. I feel most comfortable with the BBC, not just BBC America, the full broadcasting. CBC in Canada does a credible job but often gets drawn uncritically into the American point of view.

I wish I knew the solution to this problem. For me I seek out many sources but for the general population they sadly only rely on the main TV sources to keep them informed.

I am glad there are those. like yourself, who care enough to complain.

Climenheise said...

I agree substantially with "Tossing Pebbles" -- except that as a Western Canadian I do not see CBC as substantially better than Fox. It has its own bias which ignores the concerns of the West and equates "Canadian" with "Liberal Party". I vote Green and don't particularly like the Tories, but I've given up on CBC, along with the other sources cited.

Keep pressing our news sources for contextual accuracy, sister mine!

Ginnie said...

I can't watch Fox TV for fear that my blood will boil over ... it truly makes me sick.
Happy New Year.

Mary said...

I agree with you totally. I think the majority of the news we watch is sensationalized - the media knows what dumb people love to see without intending to understand it. Esp. on Fox. I never watch it.

Cathy said...

Oh Donna! It's so good to be back here and see you're still assaulting the barricades AND posting your soup recipes :0)

Your "Why Vote" montage was wonderful.

Says it all.

Cathy said...

Oh! The new format is very handsome.

(Misery loves company. I see you've got squirrels, too:0)