Monday, July 12, 2010

“This is News You Need to Hear”

“This is news everyone needs to hear.” How often do you hear that phrase while watching one of your local television stations? How many times do you hear that promo line in the middle of your early afternoon news broadcast? Of course, there are other variations, such as “this is something no parent will want to miss” and “if you own a home, this is the most important information you’ll get all day”, and the list goes on. As often as such a catchphrase is thrown about, you might think the world is coming to an end (that’s a topic for later). There’s a problem with these ‘important’ messages, however, since they’re played only once throughout the day, during the late-night broadcast.

I see two problems with the promotion of these kinds of upcoming reports when it airs only once: Either the news really isn’t that important and they promo like this for ratings, or worse, the information is as important as advertised and the network is withholding it for ratings for the one specific air time. For the first case, don’t tease me into watching your program if you’ve got nothing material to show for it. That’s deceitful, and while it probably didn’t hurt me one bit, remember the story of the boy who cried wolf; I’m not going to watch your broadcast every time you play this card, when every previous time it’s been a bust. Ultimately, I’ll stop watching altogether.

For the second case, the scenario where the station is not sharing news that truly is critical, I don’t know that I even have a response. The consequences, depending on the actual report, of not distributing the information throughout the day could be dire for those who missed out. I’ll use a not-so extreme example to help make this point more clear. Let’s say the news you can’t miss is that you will die in 24 hours if you contract a new strain of flu. This is obviously not something you should take lightly, and if you happened to miss the story - aired only once, of course - you wouldn’t even know. More often than not, the withheld info is not going to be this critical, but if it is, I’d say that it would be criminal to not dispense this to the public.

I’m a bit optimistic about the situation as a whole and believe that in the great majority of cases the ‘important’ news is really something that can be missed with no harm to the non-viewer. That doesn’t mean that this practice is something local stations should continue to engage in. Please, for the sake of the worriers and hypochondriacs out there, stop telling us we can’t miss your news. That is, unless we can’t, in which case you should tell us, and repeat the message until the danger of our ignorance has passed.

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