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Words from Winterbilt

Sometimes the News is Annoying

Shannon Bohrer

(August, 2010)  My wife and I are not regular television viewers but there are some programs that we like to watch. In particular I like to watch the evening news and a few of the special news programs. I believe it is ones responsibility to keep up with events and news that affects our lives. Lately I have noticed that some of the news programs seem to be copying entertainment programs with commercials and they often have some confusing parts. Have you ever noticed some commercials for upcoming news? They are about 30 seconds long and incorporate 105 still pictures, each of which appears for a fraction of a second; someone is saying something that you cannot hear because they are also playing music. After watching this either my wife or I will say to the other – what was that about? I know that I am old (at least older) but I often think commercials like the one I described are made by individuals on drugs that have trouble focusing on something for more than a tenth of a second….

Another sometimes confusing event is the news group, where a group of EXPERTS sit around and discuss what the news is, or what they think it is, and tell you what it means. These are the talking heads and that is part of the problem. Only one head should be allowed to talk at a time. One expert will start, then another will jump in and then a third. Instead of news it more resembles an older group of people having coffee and conversation. I know this because it has been my experience that if three people my age are having coffee you can have two conversations at the same time. While listening to the person on your right, another person facing you will start another conversation. This seems to work for older people, although I don’t know why. However, when a news program does this you have no idea what is being said. Of course the same thing occurs when I have coffee with friends, but it is expected. Also, have you ever noticed how they experts can tell you why something happened after it occurred? If they really are experts, like the financial experts, why do they not tell what will happen? Could it be they don’t know?

There certainly is plenty of news, at least what I consider news, but sometimes I think I am watching a program on entertainment. You expect to see news about the wars, the financial crises, the oil spill, politics and things that affect a lot of people. Instead a television reporter and/or entertainer died, sometimes from a drug overdose, and that’s the big story for the evening, the next morning, the following evening…. The world is about ready to explode and they spend most of the news time talking about someone who died. I do of course feel sorry for the family of the person that died and it certainly is news. However, just because someone is a celebrity and dies the rest of the world does not stop. Of course the news of this individual goes on for days and sometimes weeks. Many times it is only replaced when, say, someone tries to go to a state dinner at the white house, uninvited. Of course then that becomes the news for days, weeks…..

"If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, If you do read the news paper, you are misinformed." Mark Twain

During a half hour news program they often advertise telling you what they are going to tell you, which takes at least five minutes of the news cast. They have commercials every four of five minutes, maybe ten minutes total, and they also tell you about what you are going to see on the national news following their broadcast. If you add time for sports and weather what is left is about 5 minutes, if you’re lucky, of real news for the half hour program. One news program commercial says they are "live, local and late breaking." I guess that’s compared to dead, far away and old. It really does make you wonder why they are advertising, you’re already watching. If they really wanted to advertise should they not do so on another channel? Sometimes I believe they spend more time advertising the news – than they do giving the news.

On rare occasions a talking head show will advertise that a particular guest is coming up, and you wait to see this particular person. What they fail to tell you is that the program is one hour long, the guest is the last person up and when they finally appear the host asked a question. The guest starts to respond and the host interrupts – and then they are out of time. It should be a law that if they advertise a special guest, THEY SHOULD LET THEM TALK. And it should be against the law to interrupt; it is rude behavior.

Maybe I am old, but it seems to me that sometimes the news should be called the confusing news. You are watching a news program and the person is in a box talking. However you’re distracted because surrounding the box is what’s coming up next, the local weather, stock prices, other headlines, what you’re having for lunch and the metaphysical science news. It can be confusing. You try to read the crawl moving across the bottom, and a flash from the left side takes your attention, you go back to the craw and what you were reading is gone. You start watching and listening to the person talking and s/he says we will be right back after this commercial break. After watching a half hour of this, I am tired, I sometimes don’t know anything more than I did before I stated watching, so I have to question, why did I watch this?

I think it only reasonable to question myself from time to time when watching the news. I like being informed and generally like the news, but sometimes I question if I am being informed or entertained, or just confused… or maybe it’s an age thing?

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer