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Local TV News: Dumbing Down British Columbians

April 23rd, 2008 · 6 Comments

After 10 days away in New York City and Montreal, watching awful local news programs, I was quite looking forward to seeing what has been going on at home.

The newspapers piqued my interest, especially with their coverage of the Tory Election spending controversy, complete with an Elections Canada raid on party headquarters in Ottawa, accompanied by RCMP officers ..and all of it reportedly generated by actions taken in a Vancouver East riding. Wow!

This is the stuff the Newshour had thrived on during its Golden Era; leading the way … and grabbing viewers … with detailed, perceptive, revealing stories that would be the talk of the town  the next day around just about every water cooler in Vancouver and throughout B.C.

And Tuesday, the radio reported the Prime Minister, attending a North America leaders summit in New Orleans, had made his first public comments…. providing a great new angle to keep the story alive.   Terrific!

So I tuned in the Newshour Tuesday night and …. nothing!  Nada! No story, no follow-up, no revealing new angles.

The lede story?  Canadian interest rates had dropped half a percentage point … with what I suspect were not even fresh pictures, but file footage video, along with an economist revealing the obvious, for the upteenth time,  that “we should see lower interest rates, particularly the prime lending rate come down, and hence lower financing costs.”   

Duh!!!    Stories like this may be worth mentioning, but they belong (along with dollar edging up, dollar edging down)  in the second or third news package.

Why was it the lede?  Because the rest of the show included such epics as the Premier attending the renaming of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, offering up a reassuring clip from Campbell that our economy is diversifying; another story about how BC’s economy will continue to prosper after 2010 (along with another soppy Premier clip about how well BC will do in the future); a piece on how gas prices may hurt tourism this summer ( BUT, with a reassuring clip from the Tourism Minister that there’s nothing to worry about);

Was there no Opposition Leader or Opposition Critics available to the Newshour on any of these stories … to balance all those puff pieces ???? And add a little spice???

And where was the Tory scandal story? It is a red herring to suggest stories like this are adequately covered instead on Global National at 5:30 p.m.  …  a half hour before the Newshour.  Because I suspect most Newshour viewers are not home by 5:30 p.m. because the show’s ratings have traditionally gone UP after 6 p.m. as people get home and turn on the tube.

There was a time when the Newshour’s political reporting … both federally and provincially … added depth and sparkle to the program: news for people with interests beyond crime, police shootings, fires, or basically following wire service stories and attending press conferences. Interesting how we are moving closer here to the style of local t.v. news in New York and Montreal, which we used to disdain. But I believe we are now witnessing the same dumbing down of local t.v. news coverage in Vancouver.

What a disappointment: is this what “doing more with less” gets us?  The Newshour is but a shadow of what it used to be and it’s hard to believe the show won’t lose viewers if it keeps on this track.

But what does help them is that CTV local news is still even worse!

The CTV lede story Tuesday night revealed (exclusively??? LOL) that Ethical Bean, a local coffee retailer, would be using biodegradable cups from now on!  Earth Day alert! And the challenge now … discovered in this epic piece of earth-shattering journalism …  is how to get more retailers to use environmentally-friendly products.  This .. the lede story in a  newscast !!! Holy Sh*t!   Alert CNN!!!

 But at least CTV DID cover the Tory Election spending scandal … an interesting story too,  at least trying to put B.C Tories’ feet to the fire on the issue and keep the issue alive locally.

 And CTV also did reveal that Solictor General John Les has now been interviewed by the RCMP … after resigning last month in the midst of an investigation into land deals in Chilliwack, where he had served as mayor …  his interview by RCMP is a development very worthy of note, and apparently well ahead of the Newshour on this one.

But the rest of their show was also eminently forgettable: no water cooler followups here! 

Many of us watch the local news out of habit.  After being away for 10 days and tuning it in on my return .. I can now understand why I (and probably many others too) am  increasingly no longer watching it regularly   … dialing it up only when I hear late breaking stories on the radio … and I hope to see it followed, on the  local TV news.

Tags: British Columbia · Media

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BEENIE // Apr 23, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I love your objective views on the topics you choose to comment. You da man. Keep up the attacks on what is wrong in this country.

    Signed
    BEENIE

  • 2 Mark // Apr 23, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    So many stories are just not being covered. The price of bread has DOUBLED at my local bakery. Has any newscast done this story properly? Oh, wait, breaking news, the Canucks hired a new GM! A puppy was kidnapped! What wacky weather! Help. I’m drowning in fluff…

  • 3 Josh // Apr 24, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Hit the nail right on the head with this one, news is now about giving viewers information they think they’ll watch, rather than providing them with information they need.

  • 4 jenzed // May 7, 2008 at 12:28 am

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on why newsworthy stories are covered less often than fluff pieces. Is it because “harder” stories are more difficult to research and report? Is it because the people who choose which stories to cover believe that viewers prefer stories about lost puppies and biodegradable cups? Is it a huge media conspiracy? :)

    Also, thanks for your use of the term “lede” – it was a new one for me, and, being a bit of a word-hound, that always makes my day.

  • 5 jeneralize » Blog Archive » Why is TV news bland? // May 8, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    [...] There is an interesting discussion going on over at Harvey Oberfeld’s blog about the state of TV news in British Columbia. In the first post, Harvey decries CTV and Global for ignoring important, breaking news (the Conservative funding scandal) in favour of “light” news (biodegradable coffee cups and an update on Canadian interest rates). (”Local TV News: Dumbing Down British Columbians“) [...]

  • 6 LaksPleasyLaw // Aug 4, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Hi,

    I have been reading this blog for some time now but never bothered to comment until today. Wanted to let you know that I am a fan and enjoy your work.

    (Thanks … good to hear from you.
    ho)

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