Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Houston, you have a problem

First, read this, and pay close attention to the quote toward the end of the article regarding a newscast with no people:


A little bit of history about the news business before I comment on this premise. Back in my black-and-white childhood we didn't see commercials when we went to the movie theater. We had things called "newsreels" which were voiced-over clips of film. You'd get some news from overseas, some domestic stuff, and usually a funny clip of something bizarre. There was no anchor, just a dramatic voice. If you're curious, you can see these things on YouTube.

Before our current TV news model, there was one solitary anchor sitting on a desk. (You can also find this on YouTube.) One guy with a deep voice who took care of everything. News, sports, weather, kickers, you name it. You never saw a reporter.

Then my friend Al Primo came along in the 60's and put reporters on the set and created the Eyewitness News format. You can read about it in our book Eyewitness Newsman. (Forgive the shameless promotion.)

So now someone wants to try to turn back the clock to the fifties and present a newscast with no people. Here's the job posting:


Some thoughts:

No one would love to wake up in the 1950's more than me. Trust me, life was a heck of a lot better when milk was delivered to your home and the Good Humor man rolled by with ice cream on hot summer nights. Sadly, unlike Rod Taylor, I do not have a time machine.

But while it would be nice for society to roll back to the age of innocence, I'm not sure television news would work in that manner.

We are a personality driven culture, and the product we deliver in a newscast had a big dose of personality. Taking that element out of the equation would leave a hole in the product.

But the biggest problem here is this: who would want to work there? Are you telling me there are TV reporters out there who don't want their faces on camera?

Yes, content is king and always will be. You can throw all the bells and whistles you want into a newscast, but unless you have content and compelling news people delivering it, you're not going to get the viewers.

It's a lot like picking a bank for a mortgage. All banks tell you that you can trust them, that they have your best interests at heart. Banks are brick and mortar faceless operations. But if you meet a banker that you like, who truly has your best interests at heart, that puts a face on that company.

By the same token, a faceless television station in this day and age is just another company without a personality.

Television news is "broken" because the content is bad, not because of the people presenting it. Throw out the wrecks, fires, crime, convenience store robbery tapes and meaningless live shots and you'll fix it. You want a new model for a newscast? Try one with real stories that actually affect people. Forget about story count, package times and airing five weather segments in 30 minutes and viewers might actually tune in.

If you want to resurrect something from the 1950's, try content. Mix that with quality people, and you'll own the market.


1 comment:

turdpolisher said...

haven't consultants really taken the personality out of the newscast. i mean except for the weatherclown, every newscast looks exactly like the next.