Media Echoes

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Deborah Potter of TV NewsLab has posted an article that has some good points about TV news, but there’s one aspect of it that is off the mark.

Take the fact that so many local newscasts look and sound alike. Not just a lot alike. Exactly alike. TBS late-show host Conan O’Brien has been having a field day lately making fun of TV stations for the sameness of their news programs by stringing video clips together. There’s nothing inherently funny about an anchor introducing a story about a new software program by asking, “Could this be the end of e-mail overload?” But it’s hilarious to watch 28 straight-faced anchors in row deliver the identical line.

Here’s an example of what Potter is talking about:

Yes, yes, it’s funny to watch all 20 or 30 of those people reading the exact same sentence in varying tones and inflections, with a few brave souls attempting to even use a different word occasionally.

But for the people watching those newscasts in Dubuque, or Tulsa, or Sacramento, etc, they’re only seeing it once – on their local newscast. It’s not until a supercut like this is created does it show that some “fluff” stories are – gasp! – created and written somewhere else and then shared with scores of media outlets.

The thing is, it’s not just TV news. It happens in all media outlets. One example is the Associated Press (AP) – their reporters across the country writes hundreds of news stories every day, and those stories get sent out to subscribers – a huge number of newspapers and TV stations. The stories are then cut and pasted (usually) verbatim onto news websites – local and national, large and small, TV and newspaper, etc.

Other agencies and companies do the same thing – PR firms (for instance) send out emails to every media outlet on their list with a pitch for a story or product, and they include some photos and sometimes a link to a video that can be used, and voila – the local TV station now has a two-minute story about seatbelts on school buses, or why Fluffy the cat and Tiny the mouse have become best friends despite their natural instincts, etc.

So if you were to do a Google search about – for example – a “rare pink diamond once owned by Indian royalty” then you would get literally hundreds of results, all of which have the exact same sentence in their lead: “A rare pink diamond once owned by Indian royalty has sold for $39.3 million at auction in New York City.”

Behold, the “rare pink diamond once owned by Indian royalty!”



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