Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bad Newscasting

A new low for standards for television journalists was reached yesterday when a CNN anchor blithely admitted to a weather reporter, out in hurricane Flossie, that he didn’t know how to pronounce the name of the Hawaiian town from where the report was coming. I can hardly imagine Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Huntley or Brinkley, or any of the venerable newsmen of the past admitting – on camera – that he hadn’t done his homework. I can’t even imagine as a newspaper reporter of far lesser renown having gone out on an assignment without doing my homework.

Another egregious instance was when the Palm Beach Post, in the late 1990s, assigned a reporter to the fashion beat with no background in fashion – a deficiency she joked about in her columns. In a letter to an editor, I complained about how hard it is to teach young journalism students to do research when this is the role model they get. I also pointed out that the Post serves Palm Beach and Wellington, two of the most fashionable locales in the United States. Its readers contribute to a multi-billion-dollar fashion industry. Finally, I asked if the paper would dare send someone with no knowledge of football to report on a game and publish a lame article about how the reporter noticed that there were a bunch of guys tossing a funny-shaped ball around and bumping into each other – and that’s about all he could tell us about it.

The fashion reporter wasn’t on the beat for long, but the lame CNN reporters, with their pretty hair and superficial questions, have been around far too long.

Dan Rather, onetime CBS anchor, rails against the “dumbing down and tarting up of the news.” Pundits have been bemoaning the poor state of network and cable news, but it doesn’t do any good.

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