Sunday, February 24, 2008

All the News that's Fit to Read

There are really so many things that irritate me when I watch the local news on television that singling one aspect out seems hardly worth the bother.

For example, I am annoyed at the story choices--what leads on the evening news. Never mind the state of the world--our local news invariably chooses the most inane stories as leads. There is even a cycle to this inanity--every year, Groundhog Day (just past) gets top billing. I am so tired of the d*mn groundhog that I feel like hunting down and killing the critter. Oops--careful, control yourself. Or in January, the farm show. And the Farm Show weather. Local legend has it that Farm Show weather is always icy and snowy. Except it isn't. So if it snows that week--well, it's always icy and snowy. But if it doesn't--where's the snow and ice? See?--an endless round of news. On and on it goes.

Then there's the breaking news syndrome--a fire somewhere in our nearby city trumps almost any other story. Breaking news has a close cousin in the exclusive report.

I am always flabbergasted when a news report begins with these words: "We bring you this exclusive report"--the implication being that this channel is the ONLY one to know about and cover this news.

Eh? If it's exclusive--i.e. no one else is covering it--is it really news? Try these headlines--


--Pearl Harbor Bombed

--Tsunami Hits Indonesia

--Planes Fly into World Trade Center

--Princess Di Killed in Paris Crash

You get the picture--if it's news, EVERYONE covers it.

Another tendency--salacious video. We've all seen helicopter coverage of police chases in Los Angeles--hello! this is central Pennsylvania. Why on the earth would we want to see L.A. police chases on our LOCAL news? Or grim murders from somewhere in Nevada? It's almost the equivalent of "aliens captured me" stories or "two-headed calf born" stories that grace the pages of National Enquirer. Our local television news now shills the same kind of trash that the newspaper rags feature.

I've already ranted about local weather forecasters--any time the temperature rises to abnormal levels in the winter, they laud it! They inveigh against cold of any kind. As a cold weather lover, I am driven nuts by this tendency. And I have a sneaking suspicion that such coverage of the weather contributes to our human inertia in face of global warming--why do anything, we ask, we like it warm. Way over-simplified, of course (but, hey, it's my blog).

Oh, and who can ignore the constant tease approach. "Coming up. . .a dog adopts a duck. Where this happened and what people are saying about it." At each news break interval, the same promo. Finally, 5 minutes before the end of the news, a 30 second video clip of a "cute" story. That's it. So, you get 3 minutes of promotional tease for a 30 second nonsense story.

I almost forget--the comments from the person on the street. Some national tragedy may be reported, but it can't possibly be authentic until you get a comment from Joe Schmoe. Now, I don't know Joe. I have no idea what he knows. I don't know if he is interested in the news, if he reads to inform himself, if he has any of the same values that I might have--but, hey, I know what he thinks about this important story. Far too often, it seems to me, Joe Schmoe appears to have gone no further in schooling than 3rd grade. He forgot to shave this morning (how was he to know he would be on local news). And, to top everything off, his fly is unzipped. OK--I made up the part about his fly.

So what's left to complain about where local news is concerned? Well, I'll tell you--pronunciation.

Any local newscaster should be required to have a crash course in pronouncing place names. Of course, every area has its local peculiarities. I live in central Pennsylvania so we have some words with odd pronunciation. In our town we have a street named Muench. You might think--well, that looks like MUNCH, and you would be wrong. It is pronounced MINNICK.

A local creek is named Swatara--derivative of an American Indian name. The emphasis is on the second syllable--SwaTARa. But some newbies on local news have said--SWAtara. Or worse. A nearby town is Carlisle. Now, the only way that sounds right to me is to say CarLISLE. Emphasis on the second syllable. But many local announcers have taken to saying CARlisle. Can't figure out why.

Then there are "regular" words. The other night, a newscaster said something about having to repeat something. Only he said REpeat. Huh? I say rePEAT.

It has gotten so I spend so much time "correcting" these peculiar pronunciations that I end up not really listening to the news.

Maybe that's why I prefer print news. No mispronunciations there!


Cathy said...

Ahhh . . . thank you, Donna. This was fun! I've been mentally composing this rant for years and never got around to getting it into coherent form.

I rarely watch the news and you have stated precisely why.

JeanMac said...

Well, you're fired up. You made some good points and gave me a chuckle at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree and I hate when they break into our fav programs to let us know something that isn't that big of news (and can wait till 11pm)! Although I have some breaking news . . . . I am a groundhog nut! Sorry

Mary said...


I just loved this rant! "Live, Local, Late-Breaking" news about NOTHING. I never cared about what the groundhog is doing and never will! People on the streets and their reactions to news is a huge waste of time. I'd rather see a commercial.

News reporters on the street: "Tonight at 11, we'll find out where it's AT." I shake my head.

Charlotte weather: My eyes glaze over with every forecast and they talk, talk, talk about it. There's NO WEATHER to report in Charlotte. None. We had 1/2 inch of snow this year and they made a "snow show" out of it, bringing out the rulers for measurement.

The only news I appreciate is traffic conditions before I leave for work.

Great post :o)

Pam said...

To this list I will add fearmongering. Take the weather for example; they makes 6 to 8 inches of snow sound like the blizzard of 78. Or they make our streets sound more dangerous than they actually are.I know things have changed, but manipulating the fear factor doesn't help to make them better

KGMom said...

Cathy--oh, please write yours anyway. I would love to read what you have to say.

Jean--yup, this is a subject that fires me up.

Tom--it isn't that I dislike groundhogs--I just get so tired of "news" about Groundhog Day.

Mary--sounds like you suffer from the same news "coverage" in NC.

Pam--oh, I agree. Fear mongering drives the news. The old "if it bleeds, it leads."

Beverly said...

That is a WONDERFUL rant. Those apply almost anywhere.

I so agree with the need for news people to learn how to pronounce the names of towns, rivers, etc.

We have a lot of Indian names here in Florida too, Probably the most annoying one here is Kissimmee, which is often mispronounced KISS-a me. It is Kis-SIM-me.

By the way, it was 50 here today. Quite springlike.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Rant on! Televison "news" is not news, it is entertainment.

You forgot to mention news broad casters as self promoters. The most agrivating in CNN and "the best news team. . . ." every few minutes.

You left out the fact that a lot of real news is not even covered or onlu given a momentary reference.

I watch BBC for better news. At least they let you know there are concerns in the World, that aren't the US.

Denise said...

It is nice to know - I guess - that we are not the only ones in our area with news frustrations. I get more than frustrated with all the little news teasers that turn into nothing! I agree with Pam – we had 8” of snow over night - no blowing, drifting, just a gentle, beautiful snow. Most of the schools are closed today because of the “terrible weather”. We shouldn’t be out on the roads, etc. I am asking what terrible weather? It is just snow. Be careful, be smart, but we don’t have to stop all together – the fear factor in play around here. However, it is very beautiful today – a perfect snowy day.

Dorothy said...

Donna, I'm with you. This is a topic that hits home with me. I detest the news! Most of the news reported here has to do with the latest statistics on murders and violent crime in Philadelphia or Camden.
So I don't watch it. And if it isn't entertaining, it's depressing. Instead I keep an icon on my desktop to BBC and I find out what is really happening in the world.

RuthieJ said...

Hey Donna, you didn't even mention about when the local news has incorrectly spelled words on their graphics....that's what really drives me nuts with our local news (in addition to all the other points your mentioned).

Ruth said...

Media coverage of the news "contributes to our human inertia" towards more than global warming. Human suffering, tragedy...all sensationalized and mind-numbing.

Mauigirl said...

I am so with you! This is a pet peeve of mine and I've talked about it several times on my blog as well. I HATE our news programs. If we're abroad we watch their news and find out stuff that's going on in the world that we never hear on our news programs. It's pitiful.