I recently returned from vacation... a cruise around the British Isles. I hadn't been to Europe in ten years, and once again I was struck by the great differences in cultures.
And of course, I checked out the British newscasts.
Put them side by side with any newscast in this country, and you're struck by the class shown by the British. While co-anchors do engage in chit-chat going into breaks, they don't present news in an over-the-top fashion. The overly dramatic, in-your-face performance of many American newscasters would look horribly out of place to the British. The Brits, with that wonderful accent, can almost make a war seem genteel.
Their newscasts seem to reflect their society; polite, classy and not terribly sensational. (They apparently leave that to their hilarious tabloids, which had a field day with the Michael Jackson story.) Bottom line, we could use a little of that class over here, both on TV and in our society. This was illustrated on our flight home, in which several people were dressed in flip-flops and gym shorts. It was as if someone had put wings on a discount store.
I also met a lot of people on the trip, and when they found out I worked in the news business, most wanted to know why the product is so biased one way or the other. And sadly, most admitted that they didn't watch local news at all anymore.
In an effort to push the envelope and one-up the competition by crossing the lines of both good taste and ethics, we have alienated the people who ultimately pay our salaries... the viewers.
Keep that in mind the next time you write a line like, "It's a parent's worst nightmare!" or "You may find the next video disturbing!" I've always found it helpful to think, "What would my mother think if she saw me doing this?" (Might be a Catholic guilt thing.)
If any business needs an injection of class, it's television news. You can do your part.