When news breaks, I find out from my phone, not from television being interrupted. Because I’m not watching live TV.
If I’m near a television, I’ll turn it on to my default network or news channel, but it becomes background as I go to my twitter feed for the truly breaking news. I find out things at the same time as the networks. Is some of the information bad? Sure. But I know who I can trust. And I am able to process what is rumor and what is confirmed. I don’t need a TV network to filter that for me. Increasingly they get it wrong any way.
Links to relevant video clips pop up. I can watch them once. Watch them twice if there is value. But I don’t have to leave on a news channel as they loop the same 30 second clip over and over and desperately try to differentiate themselves from each other and “add value” by yapping over them.
There’s and old concept in communication called the “news hole.” It refers to the space available in a newspaper or an evening news report separate from the ads and commercials. It was relevant for years because it determined what stories got told and in what level of detail. Lots of important but “un-sexy” stories would get left out.
On television during an event like today’s, there’s a “reverse news hole.” Fox, MSNBC, CNN, and the networks have very limited information, but they have to fill the air. So they replay clips, and talk, and speculate, and talk, and foolishly attempt to provide context before they have any, and taaaaaaalk. They don’t even have enough sense to realize that they should immediately turn their “tickers” into tools to communicate what is known and what people NEED TO KNOW” like numbers to call for family members so people who turn on their networks are immediately brought up to speed. Nope. They use those to tell other stories while their producers whisper scarce facts into their anchors’ ears who then try to stretch out the tiny bits of info into “stories.”
They assemble the usual suspects: “experts” who are chosen primarily based on their proximity to a working camera and their ability to fill time by talking….and talking…and talking.
So as a great American once said, U.S. media conglomerates, “Know your role and shut your mouth.” Feed news to us through your internet presence, feed live video when you have it, and figure out when it’s appropriate to provide context and news summaries. Today, 8:00 p.m. would have been an appropriate time. And on MSNBC, smart and thoughtful hosts like Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow have the right staffs and right temperaments to provide that context. They’re doing it now.
Take a look and learn how to use your medium correctly, television executives.
Tweet if you have something of value to say and you need me to turn on the television. I’ll turn you back on if you’ve earned my trust back.