Category Archives: Digital Radio

Why TV News In the U.S.A. Is Complete Garbage

Consuming news from CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC Nightly News, NPR, CBS, the News Hour with Jim Lehrer or Fox is a frustrating experience. It always seems like they are doing something other than reporting.

Stories are 30 seconds long. If possible, the focus of the story is reduced to one personal factoid concerning the subject. Anchors are constantly talking over the video, paraphrasing whoever is being shown on screen, assuming the hopes and fears of somebody and then a commentator does the same thing then they argue about which one of them made the more convincing impersonation. What is going on here?

Kieren McCarthy writing in the UK Guardian has a helpful analysis of this phenomenon. He breaks down seven reasons for the failures of US TV news, condensed here:

1. The analysis of what someone has said is clearly bent by the reporters themselves along ideological lines.
2. The media reports constantly on itself.
3. The focus is entirely on the back story, and the actual news is given lip-service.
4. There is never a neutral statement – it is always an extreme perspective.
5. There is absolutely no effort to provide historical context.
6. Coverage is deeply cynical in the sense that people are assumed to have a hidden and planned agenda even when the connection drawn would have been impossible to predict as it doesn’t follow logical reasoning.
7. There is no effort to reach a greater understanding. Instead, the sole intent is to provoke disagreement and partisan perspective – with the anchor used solely to egg on disagreement.

Every segment on U.S. news crams as many of these mistakes into 30 seconds as possible.

This is especially true of the endlessly irritating Sunday chat shows, because the pundits have time to stretch out and lose their train of thought. Watch 1/2 hour of CNN’s morning show and you’ll see the same in bits an pieces. This morning, I thought Tony Harris would cry upon suddenly perceiving his nation’s absence of leverage over Russia (over Georgia).

I use the BBC radio as my basic news source. Especially the World Service news channel. Of course, some people don’t like that, or didn’t at one time. At one time, the Saturday Evening Post needed to warned patriotic Americans away from the anti-blandishments of the BBC.

BBC news boadcasts have a peculiar style which would never satisfy an American audience. They give the plain facts, the barest essentials of the story, without any explanation, comment, background, interpretation of even colorful description. Every news broadcaster is trained to speak in a calm imperturbable voice, betraying no emotion or even interest in anything he says. As a means of avoiding anything which might sound like propaganda, this method is highly successful.

Britain’s Bid To Rule The Air Waves. p. 58 John Chabot Smith The Saturday Evening Post,November 16, 1946.

Well who wants that? Of course now there is as much blathering by journalists as you’ll find in the US, but at least it isn’t completely Washington-centric and the choice of guests is more impressive. This morning i heard the World Service interviewing Immanuel Wallerstein on the multipolar world.

The Woman In Black

British Broadcasting Corporation is repeating the four part 1993 radio adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black.

The segments will only be available on BBC7’s website for one week from broadcast. It is worth hearing. The BBC program page is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00bg37x

It is a traditional ghost story, set sometime in the last century and relying on suggestive disturbances in banal reality to construct a very personal malevolent spirit.

Hill explains on her website what elements she felt were needed to recapture a proper ghost story:

In 1982, I decided I wanted to try and write a full length ghost story in the traditional English style. I made a list of ‘ingredients’ – I don`t often write in this very conscious way but it was necessary here.

Ingredients included
1. A ghost… not a monster or a thing from outer space but the ghost of a human who was once alive and is known to have died but whose recognisable form re-appears – or occasionally is not seen but heard, or possibly even smelled.
2. The haunted house… usually isolated.
3. Weather… atmospheric weather conditions – fog, mist, snow, and of course moonlit darkness on clear nights.
4. A sceptic. A narrator or central character who begins as a sceptic or plain disbeliever and scoffer but who is gradually converted by what he or she sees and experiences of ghostly presences.

This will make you more appreciative of crafted genre writing and curious about predecessors like Daphne Du Maurier and M. R. James.

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