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Hard for TV stations to “stay classy” as New Media transform local news into local entertainment 3/18/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Local TV news.
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Once upon a time, local TV stations offered the only way we could see video of news events outside our metropolitan areas. But then came cable TV. Then the Internet. And now, even the affiliates’ own networks are beginning to bypass them, allowing viewers to watch news videos on the web. Worse yet, weather reports — a staple of local news — are being supplanted by the Internet’s superior, in-depth, on-demand forecasts.

This has left these stations with an impossible task — finding local news that is of interest to just about everyone in a metropolitan area. But, for the most part, this news simply does not exist. Metro area audiences live in different municipalities, school districts, and communities, and they work for multitudes of employers. Almost nothing that can be reported on a metropolitan level directly impacts the lives of most in their audiences.

So, local TV news has little choice but to become local TV entertainment, with stories that appeal to those sometimes unfortunate common denominators that unite the masses. Sports news is entertainment. Panda bears born in our local zoos, as parodied by Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy in the movie Anchorman, is entertainment. And then there is entertainment for our prurient interests. If it bleeds it leads, because morbid curiosity is a sick part of our human nature. The kidnapping of pretty blonds is titillating. Gossip about the rich, famous, and successful makes us feel better about our mediocre lives. As Skeptic.com notes, a story that shocks us because it is so unrepresentative of the world as it is becomes even more likely to be reported than a story that accurately depicts the world, as news purports to do. All in all, it is becoming as difficult for local TV news to “stay classy” as it was for anchorman Ron Burgundy to say it. (H/T: Dan Wismar)

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