It sounds like something out of one of those cringeworthy, self-written high school plays. But in reality it is a genuine news report from a Fox affiliate TV station in the United States. And although it is a single anecdote, it does shine a spotlight on the mess that the media is in right now.
In an attempt to be the first in their reporting, news agency trip over themselves (and ordinary people) to pile camera upon camera outside every media friendly location in the world; and then get their anchors to spout meaningless drivel and speculation, and fill their studios with vacuous (and often professional) commentators who are more interested in soundbites than truth. And increasingly they get the actual news wrong!
But this takes the cake. And it’s hilarious.
Last Friday, A KTVU anchor read the “names” of the four pilots who were on board the 777 when it crash-landed in San Francisco. They were: “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow.” Read those out loud just once (although not too loudly if you’re with other people). How is it possible that this made it all the way to a live TV news reader without any flags being raised? Here’s a home video of the report:
It’s mildly racist. Very funny. Very sad. And, of course, they blamed it all on an intern.
But it also is indicative of all that’s wrong with network TV news. The news lives with the dying embers of a world that is passing. They still believe that their competitive advantage is all about getting information first. Their priorities are therefore on speed, rather than accuracy. They focus on intrigue, shock and hype, rather than insight, analysis and understanding. They want simplicity rather than helping us understand the complexity of the issue. But mainly at the heart of the problem is their lack of understanding that the world has changed.
Who cares whether we find out the next “breaking news” one second, one minute or even one hour after it happened? What we NEED to know is what it means, what it changes, and how it affects the world. That takes some time, some thought, some analysis. Today’s news should be focusing less on speed and scoops and sensationalism.
I wonder what aspects of YOUR industry you might be blind to? Have a laugh at this stupid newsroom, for sure. But then look in the mirror and see what you might be doing that’s similarly ridiculous.