Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Proof that old quality beats new garbage

Ratings in July aren't a big deal, but this year there's something interesting happening with viewers. We're not talking about news, but prime time shows.

The following shows aired last week:

-Two episodes of The Big Bang Theory
-Person of Interest
-60 Minutes

What's the big deal, you say? All of those shows were reruns.
What's the big deal, you say? All of those shows landed in the top ten.

Bottom line, reruns beat the reality garbage the networks have been feeding viewers (and providing incredibly weak lead-ins to late newscasts.)

This one blew my mind: a few weeks ago an episode of Dallas on TNT beat every broadcast prime time show that night.

You may not like the shows I've mentioned, but those shows took some thought. A scriptwriter, a director, actors, etc. Personally, I think Big Bang is one of the most clever comedies of all time and Dallas is still a great classic nighttime soap. Unlike reality garbage, some creativity went into those shows. And the fact that viewers would rather watch reruns than brand spanking new garbage speaks volumes.

Will it be the death of reality television? We can only hope, but as long as beancounters know those shows are dirt cheap to produce, they'll still trot them out.

What do we take from this in the news business? That viewers have choices, that viewers don't want garbage, that viewers want programming that takes some thought. If your newscast is filled with scanner stories, your staff has put little thought into the product.

You're producing reality television; it just happens to air in a newscast.

Scanner stories are the reality television of the news business. Easy, cheap to produce, requiring little thought. With basically the same yahoos in starring roles.

Viewers aren't stupid. They want quality, as their time has become more and more precious. They want to watch television that took some thought. The have a DVR and can whip through the stuff that doesn't appeal.

News Directors, the good ones anyway, want to see resume tapes with stories that took some thought as well. Sure, there are still plenty out there who want flash and trash, but a good storyteller has a special value. Even if you have to cover a crime, or a fire, or a tragedy, you can still put some thought into it. Find the story behind the facts. Tell more than the facts, more than the reality. Take the viewers with you on the search.

Any intern can gather facts and put them in order. It takes a real reporter to take those facts and weave a story out of them that goes beyond the obvious. Great stories go way beyond the facts.



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