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ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One

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Timothy J. AllenABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 24, 2010 at 10:54:22 pm

ABC News has announced today that they are cutting 20% of their staff.

According to a spokeperson, to keep content flowing..."The network will rely more heavily on ‘digital journalists’ who produce, record and edit much of their material."

Those in the local news business have seen this trend for years. First they cut the sound guy, then later the cameraman, so eventually it's down to pretty much one person from conception to broadcast. The quality of the work has gone down in a few cases (IMHO), but it's still "good enough" in most cases to convey the stories that are being told. Those of us in corporate video production are used to putting two people on a shoot where we used to use four. Producers edit. Editors shoot. Everyone “does” sound.

My question is - how far do you think this "micro-staffing" will go? I'm thinking it will go at least as far as print - and (hint, hint) I'm not dictating this post to a Secretary.

For instance, I work in an organization that has people with the skill, the experience and even the equipment to produce very high quality work at a robust - some may even say fast - pace. BUT our production staff will NEVER be as fast (or as authentic) as a guy in an office with a Flip Mino camera and nothing standing between him and YouTube but a corporate firewall. If he really knows what he wants to say, he can have a video DONE and out to the world in the time it would normally take him to fill out a production request.

The ONLY value proposition I have to justify using (read: paying for) a team of professionals to create video is QUALITY. But just like some print messages can be conveyed effectively through a few xeroxed flyers on a bulletin board, technical quality sometimes comes in behind speed and cost in the customer's mind.

I say, don't let this drive for fast and cheap drive you crazy. The trend will continue as it always has. Instead, let it drive you to a higher level of production. Let go of the other stuff as fast as you can.

How many of us got into the video production business to put "fast" and "cheap" over "quality" anyway? Not me. I like having a professional on set that I can depend on to focus solely on audio… or lighting… or directing. Especially if that specific skill is her passion and she is given the experience to learn that part of her craft as deeply as possible.

So, all of this scary news is actually GOOD news for creative professionals who want to get back to producing high-end work. Because we are at a tipping point of customers realizing they don't really NEED to come to you for the low-end (and soon the middle either). They can do low-end by themselves.

When the client's ideas deserve more - that's where we come in. That's where we want to be involved. That's where we save them money and time by using highly skilled people. To put it back in the print context, I'm no longer fighting for that "lost dog flyer to post on a bulletin board" type of work. Give me the "full color photos, color, custom die cut, unusual folds" type of work.





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grinner hesterRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 24, 2010 at 11:14:14 pm

They've evolved waay to slow to keep this from happeneing. Same with the other broadcasters. If you talk to many who work for these networks laying folks off, they'll try to tell you how ratings are up.
???
yeah... for youtube. lol

The problem is in th eold school mentality of the big wigs still in charge who can't so much as operate a mouse. New blood would do em good but new blood seldom seeks a sinking ship.



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Tim WilsonRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 24, 2010 at 11:43:10 pm

I think it's broader than "organizations got big because bosses are clueless." Which is true. But it's not the ONLY thing that's true. There was a time when journalists on the ground actually gathered news. They sifted through events and, for better or worse, tried to pull the pieces together to make a coherent story.

In other words, pretty much what WE do.

Not to make a political point, but I sensed it changing in the early 90s around the first Gulf War, when spreading the official word almost became a patriotic duty. There's always an element of that in war journalism from every nation, for obvious reasons...but my lack of political point is that this seemed to spread across entire organizations, for every area of news, including entertainment and sports, which have largely blurred into each other and wind up being treated as news. It's a mess.

To put it another way, again, sans politics, there was a time when journalism seemed a high calling. For individual reporters this can still be true, but I think organizations as a whole are largely cynical. Their business models are just now catching up with the changing realities of ownership - ideals are ideals, but people watch screaming.

A general manager's ONLY reasonable response is to protect the value of the BUSINESS. People watch screaming. End of story. Bring the reporters home. Fire 'em.



PS. TJA, when you're talking about micro-sized printing, are you talking about a magazine done by 2 guys in their pajamas?


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grinner hesterRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 2:18:14 pm

The jobs of those big bosses is to predict and adhere to and/or lead the viewers you speak of. They are watching a todal wave and don't know how to surf. As sponsors pull, they don't even counter with web solutions for them. They just kind of shrug as if they don't know where the ratings are going.
This is not unlike GM pretending they don't know why another 30mpg fugly car doesn't sell like hotcakes.
Competing comes to mind.



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Todd TerryRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 2:49:37 pm

Tim hit the nail on the head, it's purely a biz thing...

Before I sold my soul to advertising, I was in the televsion news business for quite a few years. I had a little sign on my desk that said "I'm not a journalist, but I play one on TV." Which was absolutely true.

Looking back I was a terrible journalist. But people thought I was good. I did high-profile stuff. I won awards. I turned out slick stuff. I looked smooth on the air. I mastered the patented "Peter Jennings head tilt, with concern."

I was also not a good journalist... but it didn't matter.

Because television news isn't journalism. Television news is show business. And very little more.

There are good television journalists out there. But they all work for organizations that dont value that... they only value dollars and how many cents they have to spend to get each viewer. And do whatever it takes to cut whatever fat (or non-fat) they can, and make whatever extra buck they can.

If a network can spend 50 grand and produce a half hour of some reality show, or spend $2 million to produce a single episode of Law & Order... which one do you think they are gonna choose? Cheap crap trumps expensive quality almost every time... sadly.

Viewers may refer to a network, local, or cable news program as a "newscast." But in the GM's office, in the sale's manager's office, in the news director's office, even in the newsroom... it is only ever referred to as the "show." Because that's what it is. And that's all it is.

Just a show.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Ron LindeboomRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 3:28:23 pm

Thanks for the grin this morning, Todd, recalling Peter Jennings and his well remembered tilt of concern.

Today, it's hard to be a "concerned" journalist -- with the patented Peter Jennings Tilt™ or not -- when you are spending most of your time talking about stories at which journalists of a few decades back would be laughing their asses off, if told to read them on-air. Britney and Paris?

Oh please make it stop!$#@!

I think I catch network news once every few weeks or so. I think I have watched it twice since last December.

I am sure I am not the only one and so it's likely budgets are reflecting the eroding market confidence and respect that people feel towards the "news" organizations.

Ron Lindeboom


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Todd TerryRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 4:03:10 pm

Just a quick addendum...

For anyone who doubts that network news is show business... you only have to watch the first 10 seconds of any newscast to see.

Who do you hear saying the words "This is the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric"? It's no longer the venerable (and now late) Water Cronkite. Now those words are spoken by Morgan Freeman.

Over at the peacock, and ABC? It's Michael Douglas and Mike Rowe with the voiceover duties.

We've come a long way from James Earl Jones and his golden pipes proclaiming "This...... is CNN."


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Alan OkeyRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 9:34:42 pm

Just wanted to jump in on the infotainment thread...

At the risk of sounding a bit like your grandfather who walked twenty miles to school uphill both ways every day and liked it, I can't stomach watching television "news" anymore unless it's the subject of satire or ridicule.

There are few things worse than being subjected to some chirpy bimbo (or "himbo") blathering on about Very Big Important Scary Things (prescreened and selected for your viewing pleasure by the Very Big Parent Corporation of whichever news network you happen to be watching), puff pieces about kittens, salacious sex scandals or "reality" TV stars.

I highly recommend Charlie Brooker's BBC series Newswipe, which you can find on YouTube. I haven't had such a good laugh in years. He has a truly masterful command of the medium and an insider's view of the machine.


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David Roth WeissRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 5:30:28 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "I am sure I am not the only one and so it's likely budgets are reflecting the eroding market confidence and respect that people feel towards the "news" organizations.
"


TMZ is the only honest source of tabloid journalism left. They make no bones about it, they hire kids to do the reporting, and they only seek out fluff about the private lives of celebrities and politicians.

Meanwhile, the networks do exactly the same thing, only they hide it behind the faces of people who look like journalists.

I think FOX News really changed the game when they entered the marketplace and began to call their brand of news "fair and balanced."

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Mark SuszkoRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 6:14:25 pm

Fox actually had to go to court not too long ago and explain that what they did was not technically "news". 'Nuff said about that.

As far as ABC downsizing, will they now call it "The Craig's List Nightly Report"?

I have worked alongside good and bad reporters for years, and shooters from various small market stations as well as old pros from Chicago.

Yesterday I went to shoot an event and put up a mult box to feed everybody good audio. The kid from the local station shows up with a creaky betacam SP camera and asks where the audio is. I tell him take any open plug, they each have a switch that flips them to line-level or mic-level, whichever you prefer.

"What's line level mean? Is that what I want to use?"
I think he was also the reporter, as well as the shooter.

All stations are cheapskates, small market stations are the worst. We had a promising intern that took a nightside shooter job at the local TV station after he left us, he had to quit it after a couple weeks and now works at a rent-a-car place because the news gig didn't pay enough to live on. And we're talking young single guy who can subsist on not much more than dollar store ramen and a used shipping crate for food and shelter. I think they made him buy his own gas to drive to gigs too.

Cable news is particularlyy afflicted in that they have a gaping hole that needs filling every 24 hours, but filling it with quality material costs more than they are willing to pay. So what they do most is rip-and-read versions, shoulder-surfing the radio, print, and web journalists and not so much reporting any story, as they are reporting on the reporting of the story done by someone else. They will wheel a handfull of stories on the hour, then fill with pieces that are "reactions" or "analysis" of the same story. The reactions and analysis shows are dirt cheap, using material that is phoned in, shot in-studio, or provided thru cheap sat uplinks somewhere near wherever the spokesperson the producer dug up is located. I would say in 24 hours of cable news you would find an actual 15 minutes of real jouranlism. All the rest is just cheap filler for the meatloaf. What's scary is that the radio and print journalists that are the plankton for these behmoth operations are also downsizing, so basically if it wasn't covered by an AP stringer, you're not going to hear about it very soon, if ever, from the main cable news places, until they find it posted on the web somewhere and decide to follow it up. At that point, you can do the same for yourself, and better, if all you're doing is aggregating web feeds. I don't need some pretty lady reading a web update to me, so I don't watch much cable TV news any more, I know how the hot dog is made.

You can trace the fall of news to the time when the government stoped insisting that stations had a duty to the public good in exchange for using our airwaves. Since the creaky old days, news was always a money-loser for networks as well, but doing news and public affairs programming was considered part of the cost of doing business and the pay-back for raking in money from the entertainment division, which offset those costs. News also was a prestige element that gave networks something to brag about and market with. When much of broadcast deregulation came in, the dog was let off the chain and ran off to chase the shiny hubcaps of "sharerholder return." I would like to see the Fairness Doctine restored, and the re-imposition of some standards for news and public affairs, not about their content, but at least about the amount aired weekly.




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Richard HerdRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 6:35:07 pm

Is "video production" the new "communications" degree?


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Mark LandmanRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 8:18:30 pm

Fairness Doctrine, multiple ownership rules, public service requirements.....

I can take about 95% of what I learned in Broadcast Law (in the late 70's) and throw it right out the window.

Check out "The Death and Life of American Journalism" by Bob McChesney and John Nichols. If you're one of those that just gets your news from Fox you probably won't care for it - but for the rest of us it's an interesting read.



Mark Landman
PM Productions
Champaign, IL


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David Roth WeissRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 8:58:15 pm

[Mark Landman] "If you're one of those that just gets your news from Fox "

That's an impossibility. I think we're all in agreement that the stuff they serve up isn't news.


David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Ron LindeboomRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 9:24:55 pm

[David Roth Weiss] "That's an impossibility. I think we're all in agreement that the stuff they serve up isn't news."

I would grant that dubious honor as a shared one held equally by all major news organizations today. I gave up on MSNBC long ago as they were every bit as slanted as FOX. CNN spends so much time on Hollywood's goings-on that I also gave up on them.

Networks? They are every bit as ineffective.

I tend to grab my news on the Net today, and try to sort through the biases and slants to try to find the real story in it all. That takes digging.

Today, if you want real news, you have to treat the Net as a wire service -- and you are the news director pulling the stories, along with the trusted anchors, etc., who are also you.

Welcome to the brave new world.

Gone are the days when you got news from any of the news organizations.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom
CEO, CreativeCOW.net

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
- Antoine de Saint Exupéry


First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
- Gandhi


Better is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with the poor spirits who neither enjoy much, nor suffer much because they live in a gray twilight that knows no victory or defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt





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David Roth WeissRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 9:50:33 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "I tend to grab my news on the Net today, and try to sort through the biases and slants to try to find the real story in it all."

Personally, I'm becoming much more insular these days. I pay little attention to the so called "news." I get the information that's relevant to my life right here on The Cow and in a few other places. Increasingly, the things going on in the world at large seems to have little to do with my life. Am I just getting old?

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Mark LandmanRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:13:57 pm

It seems that if I want to get a reasonably unbiased view of the actual news (I don't give a rat's behind about Tiger Woods) going on in this country I need to get it from the BBC.

Mark Landman
PM Productions
Champaign, IL


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Alan OkeyRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:24:13 pm

[David Roth Weiss] "Personally, I'm becoming much more insular these days. I pay little attention to the so called "news." I get the information that's relevant to my life right here on The Cow and in a few other places. Increasingly, the things going on in the world at large seems to have little to do with my life. Am I just getting old? "

No, it's not that you're getting old, it's that mass media is devolving at breakneck speed. I'm only in my 30s and I feel the same way. I haven't even owned a television in 10 years (rather odd for someone who works in video) and I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

The Internet allows us to be much more selective about what we read and watch, and it's a far more interactive medium than TV. There is potential in that to be both positive and negative, as most people have a tendency to seek out and limit themselves to content that maintains consonance with their own world view and opinions. Extreme insularity within a self-validating feedback loop brings with it the danger of rational discourse disappearing altogether, as every issue is reduced to a shouting match between binary opposing viewpoints whose proponents aren't interested in engaging in any kind of a dialogue and seek only to drown out and negate the opposing opinion. That seems to be a pretty accurate description of the state of American politics these days. Or perhaps it's only because popular mass media intentionally highlights, sensationalizes and magnifies extreme opposing viewpoints and thrives on conflict rather than on reasoned argument, rational discourse and finding common ground.

I think it remains extremely important to actually leave the house and interact with human beings face to face on a daily basis for a healthy dose of perspective. As much as technology is shrinking the size of the world, I think it's also creating more barriers for genuine human interaction. Tweeting, text messaging, emailing and "friending" people on Facebook is not a substitute for interacting with other human beings in the flesh.

Having said that, I greatly value the Internet as an educational resource, the Cow being a fantastic example. The trick is in maintaining a balance and using technological tools for self-improvement and for good rather than becoming a slave to the tools themselves.


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John CummingsRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:49:10 am

"Today, if you want real news, you have to treat the Net as a wire service -- and you are the news director pulling the stories, along with the trusted anchors, etc., who are also you..."

How true.

With the internet, we now have the equivelent of thousands of wire services and our own personal feed rooms pumping soundbites, images and words at us faster than we can fully comprehend them. We used to depend on trusted gatekeepers to help us make sense of all that, and to break it down into bite-sized chunks that we could digest.

Now, that gate is falling open. The kids are running the candy store. The pimps, thieves, pundits, politicians and paid consultants are gnawing on the rotting carcass of journalism and we are most definately on our own.

Welcome to the new world disorder.



J Cummings
Cameralogic/Chicago
cameralogic.tv
HDX-900/HDW-730S/DXC-D50


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Brian TetamoreRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Mar 3, 2010 at 8:02:18 pm

Great conversation. Anyone familiar with Marshal McLuhan? "The medium is the message." is one of his most well known contributions to media culture. One of the premises of his teachings is that technology has the power to profoundly change us, regardless of the content. Yes, our culture seems infatuated with the lower levels of human depravity. It is easier to passively allow someone else to tell us what to think rather then putting forth effort to reason and think about the world we live in. Still, I think it's more than that.

McLuhan's prophetic understanding of how TV - among many other things - would change us can be seen in the comments on this thread. Today's visual medium emphasizes "emotion" over reason, and "speed" over context.

"quality sometimes comes in behind speed and cost"
"People watch screaming. End of story."
"Television news is show business. And very little more."
"Increasingly, the things going on in the world at large seems to have little to do with my life."
"I think it remains extremely important to actually leave the house and interact with human beings face to face on a daily basis for a healthy dose of perspective."

Millions of flashing pixels bombarding us every second. Truly at the speed of light. Video transcends time and space boundaries normally in play when we are chatting with friends at the local coffee shop. It cannot in and of itself convey meaning or context or place. The strength of this medium resides in it's ability to stimulate the right side of the human brain, which is not good at thinking. I think we all agree that sensationalism and splashy fast paced images have become the norm even with genres like the news, where reason and thought are required to make informed and rational decisions. The viewer demands experience over logic, or is it because the medium demands it?

The web offers us access to billions of people's opinions and experience. Some of them fiction. Some of them nonfiction. And it's not a coincidence we call it the "web". It's a vast network of totally unrelated threads connected at random and once in a while on purpose. In the end, well actually there is no end. The internet seems to keep growing all on it's own. At times, surfing the internet can be chaotic. Can our minds manage the billions of bits and bytes of information? Is it possible this medium has contributed to the nonlinear way that many of us now live?

I might as well end with McLuhan's own quote (because he's a whole lot smarter than me).

"We shape our powerful tools, and then they shape us."

The Visual Rabbi
TheVisualChurch.com
"Crafting Visual Messages to Engage and Persuade"


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Ron LindeboomRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 8:17:05 pm

[David Roth Weiss] "TMZ is the only honest source of tabloid journalism left."

According to the movie MEN IN BLACK, that honor belongs to The Enquirer.
"If you want the real truth that you won't find on the nightly news, then you must turn to The Enquirer."

-- Tommy Lee Jones
Best,

Ron Lindeboom


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David Roth WeissRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 25, 2010 at 9:05:09 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "According to the movie MEN IN BLACK, that honor belongs to The Enquirer."

Yeah, but that was way back in the nineties. However, it still chilling if you really think about it...

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Mike CohenRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:32:21 pm

Yesterday I watched two snippets of broadcast news and now I remember why I don't watch broadcast news.

1. A CNN "reporter/commentator" was interviewing Jack Hannah about the tragedy at Sea World in Orlando and she would not rest until she got Jack to say something bad about the whale. But our old pal Jack Hannah actually criticized the media and would not take the bait.

2. The live coverage of the Healthcare Summit at the White House. The MSNBC coverage consisted of a few minutes of actual live coverage, followed by commentary with the Washington insiders, pretty much making for an unwatchable program.

A newish thing we are seeing was also featured.

For example, Chris Dodd says, "Mr President, I think the real problem we have here is that there are not enough apples and oranges available for the poor. We need more fruit subsidies." (he did not really say that)

Then immediately the video goes into a picture in picture and another graphic flies in with text that reads

•Dodd: Not enough fruit
•Obama Prefers Doritos, source

Meanwhile the ticker is running at the bottom - they have stopped the continuous ticker - they now fade out the headline before it finishes its journey, and they fade in another one. And you have stock updates top right and lots of logos around the edges, so the content only takes up 30% of the screen. That's why tv's are getting so big, to make room for all the graphics.

So in summary, TV news is dying. I dare not watch my local news because the weather report is always wrong and the local reporting is pretty poor.

Mike




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Nick GriffinRe: ABC News - Cutting Workforce 20% - Suprising No One
by on Feb 26, 2010 at 7:07:38 pm

[Mike Cohen] "And you have stock updates top right and lots of logos around the edges, so the content only takes up 30% of the screen."

Jon Stewart did a very funny lampooning of this a couple of years after 9/11. One has to wonder how many Exec Producers and News Directors saw his satire and slowly started to cut it back.


I agree with most of what's been said about local news. It sucks and it can be painful to watch good looking people who were plainly "C" students (or less) struggle with pronouncing the names of foreign leaders or capital cities. I mean, REALLY? People who deliver the news never WATCH the news?

But my "favorite" has to be the Today Show and their oh-so-sincere interviews with those in the news through some recent tragedy. Matt Lauer has questions along the lines of, "When you found out your wife had been killed, how did that make you feel?" HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL???? I understand that they're attempting to reach the broadest audience possible, and it certainly isn't me. That's what drove me to Imus and now Joe Scarborough for my fix of morning noise.

Speaking of which, I find MSNBC to be far less objectionable and have fewer complete jerks than Fox does. MSNBC obviously bends to the left, but I've never seen them to be making things up as Fox seems to do with some regularity while claiming with a straight face to be so "fair and balanced." But don't get me started because, as is the case with the Congress, I believe one of the best ways to start to fix the mess that "news" programming has become would be to throw out everyone running it now and start over.


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