When I was growing up, yes we had running water & electricity, there was about an hour worth of news (that is things that were actually new) each day. It aired around dinner time 5-6 pm. Then came the capability of cable where they could broadcast 24 hours a day. There was still only 1 hour of news a day, so they had to make up, that’s right make up, 23 hours of junk news, ‘filler’ to be overly kind. Let’s look at some of those ‘fillers’ or junk news types…
Type #1 – Interviews:
Now, instead of reporting what actually happened, they conjecture what may happen sometime in the future. Discussion shows have several people, say A, B, & C.
A says “This is what’s going to happen”. Of course A has NO idea what will happen. Quite often it’s simply projection – This is what I, “A” wishes would happen.
Then B in a slightly louder voice says “No, This is what’s going to happen”. Of course B also has NO idea what will happen, but projects what “B” wishes would happen.
Then C in an even louder voice proclaims “No, This is what’s going to happen”. Of course C also has NO idea what will happen, but projects what “C” wishes would happen.
But all 3 will claim: This is what the American people want… See my blog entry
This can easily fill a 30 or even 60 minute slot – minus commercials, which is what it’s all about. No actual news is required.
Type #2 – Car chases:
I live in New Hampshire. Why should I care about the police in California chasing someone? I shouldn’t care & I don’t. But the media, to fill the 23 junk hours would like me to get excited, and waste my emotions, which should be directed towards my family, and my time, which is all I have left as a senior, to watch some insane car chase. Duh!
Type #3 – Polls
If you want to make up a news story, a popular method is to run a survey. You can call on one of the professional pollsters like “Rasmussen” or “Zogby”, or you can run your own little ‘informal’ poll, and when only 25 people call in, excuse it as ‘informal’ but then go on to discuss it in great length as if Zogby or “Rasmussen” had run it. And of course we have, what I consider the single greatest beneficiary of the 2008 election cycle, Frank Luntz.
Type #4 – “I’m up against a hard break…”.
This is one of the most over-controlling tricks, and virtually guarantees that no news of any significance will ever slip in.
It’s completely arbitrary from 2 dimensions:
A. As an overall contract with the station.
Imus ran his show for many years ignoring this rule. If a guest ran on a bit, or even a lot, Imus would then run a whole bunch of ads back to back to make up for it. Big deal – great for hearing what guest had to say.
I believe this is a primary pull of C-Span. The hosts, or even call-in folk ask the guest a question and then allow them as much time as necessary to answer it. How utterly refreshing!
B. As a local decision – and this the host CAN control.
Let’s say you have a half an hour or 30 minute segment. Subtracting out commercials, the whole reason for this junk news segment in the first place, you have maybe 24 minutes left to interview guests.
So you could have:
2 guests at 12 min. each; like C-Span might do it; or
4 guests at 6 min. each; enough to hear what they have to say; or
6 guests at 4 min. each; getting just the gist of their thoughts; or
12 guests at 2 min. each; where you can get absolutely nothing but meaningless sound bites. Each lead in will be something like: We only have 12 seconds left; but what is your view of western civilization’s history? Duh!
Lightening rounds are a subset of this. The general rules is that the Host asks rapid questions and the guest must answer in teeny, tiny little sound bites. I absolutely loved it when Chris Wallace, Fox News Sunday’s host explained those rules to, I believe it was General Petraeus, and his response was: Those are your rules not mine! Bravo for him!
Type #5 – Speculate, Speculate, Speculate…
This a subtype of Types #1 – Interviews: & Type #3 – Polls
You can configure it in many different ways, even call it “breaking news” but every word is a speculation about what MAY happen. No facts, NO news.
As human beings we have the God given right NOT to be treated as idiots.
What do you think?
“The difference between fiction and reality?
Fiction has to make sense.”
– Tom Clancy