Monday, April 20, 2015

5 Ways to Fix America's Nightly Network "News"

Network news - news programs shown on the original Big Three networks and other, newer, upstarts - is broken. Below are five examples, and what I believe they need to do to fix their news programs to better serve the American people:

More International Focus - A "world news" program that focuses solely on domestic news is not worthy of the name. And international celebrities getting into trouble or the latest plane crash overseas doesn't count as "news." Americans who are insular and insulated from the news of the world are suddenly surprised by trends both friendly and ferocious when they hit without warning. When that happens, that's a failure of the "world news" programs we watch. Network newscasts must rededicate themselves to covering the entire world.

More International Politics - Political trends are also vital to our full and complete awareness as voters and as citizens. It may not, at first glance, seem important that a new anti-American party is rising in the polls in a nation traditionally friendly to the USA, or that a certain governor was elected in a prefecture in Japan. But if that nation  turns hostile, or if that governor is more hostile to Americans remaining in a military base there than his predecessor, then that indeed is a problem that will have regional and international repercussions. Network newscasts should commit to covering international politics, because it's relevant.

The Weather Is NOT "news" - It's snowy in the winter in the Northern half of the United States. It's a fact. It's not, however, news. It's exciting to show cars skidding off the road, rivers frozen and, in other climes, wet summers, minor hurricanes and tornadoes. But aside from an in-depth analyses of how slowly the aid got there after the storm, or how we are adapting to changing weather patterns, it's not "news." Network newscasts should stop wasting time covering routine and expected weather, and blowing storms out of all proportion.

Less "Special Kid Plays On the Team" Stories - I love the stories in which a young person - who is disabled in some way or is a terminal patient - gets to play on their favorite professional sports team or on their high school team, especially when they actually score for the team! These stories (and there are many of them) are inspirational, interesting, heart-warming, and emotional. Note that none of those words are "news," and are not newsWORTHY. They should exist in a separate show, which I'm sure would get great ratings, but they should not be taking up time in the nightly newscast, crowding out actual news. Network newscasts should leave the "feel good" stories to other shows on the network.

Fewer YouTube Videos - What's truly shocking about today's American nightly "newscast" is the inclusion of actual YouTube videos. ABC News includes these (and the aforementioned "kids play on teams" videos) in its "Index" segment near the end of the program. It literally shows YouTube videos of animals doing funny things, near-miss car accidents and other hilarity, which we can see with better justification on shows like "America's Funniest Videos" or its cable show equivalents. The YouTubization (tm) of Network news must end. 

"If it bleeds, it leads" was the old saying about the nightly news and the local paper. National Network newscasts shouldn't fear though. There is plenty of blood in the political turmoil around the world to quench their viewers' hearts. Demonstrations, corruption, trade deals, hard-fought elections, coups and uprisings, and much of it with consequences for American voters and consumers.

That's one of the reasons why I founded "World Politics News," a news aggregation service that points American readers to the news they're missing on the nightly network newscasts.

American news organizations owe it to us to bring us the world, and to show us accurately and fairly what's happening THERE before it happens HERE. And if they begin to do this again, the nightly "World News" programs will once again be true to their names.

Stephen Abbott
Abbott Media Group

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