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January 06 2012

21:34

Did we create the monster…

…or is the monster re-creating us?

Hopping around to various newsie sites, I see a lot of moaning, groaning, and bitching about the state of broadcast journalism today. How the ethics are shot…the stories are more entertainment than news…how Barbie and Ken are running rampant in the studio. Where to lay the blame? Well favorites are consultants. Management. News directors. The new crop of (you name it: reporters, producers, crew).

But we’re leaving out the most critical factor. The elephant in the newsroom discussion: the audience.

THAT my friends is the monster that is forcing change as much as anything. And it IS a MONSTER. It wants entertainment…excitement…it is a voyeur demanding the reality it can never live…but wants to emulate.

OUR audience.

Oh, where to begin? How did this all start? Examine it enough and you end up staring at the lint in your belly button (or the toe-jelly…um, never mind…).

Back in the 90s I worked for a station who demographic (we used to jokingly say) was “Trailer Trash Barbie.” The only person at home during our noon and early news shows. Um…and the only one who wasn’t watching some of the other stations with well let’s say a little more of what we like to think of as “news”. Little TTB has been very busy pro-creating with lots of “Gangsta Kens” and other unnamed low-lifes, raising up an entire new crop of young ‘uns.

These mini-(couch)taters are generally overfed, undereducated (trust me – the students who walked into my classes firmly stating, “I don’t read.”), with little or no motivation to become…anything. They just want their “stuff” and an Idol to clone themselves after.

Our new audience. They spend more time in front of a screen than any other generation. The virtual world is more real than the couch they kick back in. The stars they watch wallow, not twinkle. They don’t watch news…well, because it’s boring…doesn’t relate to who they are.

The result is broadcast news has changed to meet the demands of a generation who can choose exactly what they want to see and hear…and it does not seem to fit the traditional definition of news: information that informs and educates people about their community and world.

sigh…end of rant.


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