Monday, June 21, 2010

Asking tough questions for stupid reasons

I know this isn't something new, but the latest marketing gimmick being offered up by local television stations is starting to get on my nerves.

I can recall years ago when the happening thing was for broadcasters to entertain us with something called "Happy Talk". I even did a story about a marketing guru in the mid-1970s who convinced a station in a very small market to pick up the concept with hilarious and disastrous results.

Anchors spent their time focusing on lame segues that at best were funny and at worst completely nonsensical -- "Yes Bob, that's the hot news in the metro area, so what's the hot news in the weather tonight?" Can you say stupid!

Over the last several decades all this snappy, happy talk has morphed into an assortment of styles, most of it finally giving way to 10 minutes of crime news -- robberies, fires, the occasional shooting and murder -- followed by the weather and sports. At least once a week, some feckless reporter manages to get a victim of one sort or another on camera, ask a few incredibly lame questions about the crime of the moment (So, how do you feel about your husband being shot?), then focus on the poor slob as they break down in sobs. And they call this news! No, not really. It's theater, poorly conceived and executed.

Now it seems the marketing gurus are back and the focus is for stations to offer up news that "CAN HELP US"! So promos feature anchors and news executives telling us in pleading terms -- have they no shame -- how much they care about each of us and their mission in life is to let us know that they've heard our collective voices and are now taking action to "give us exactly what we want ... news that can help us." I must have slept through the class in Journalism school when it was explained that a journalist's highest calling is to give the public "exactly what they want!"

One station recently has taken the, ahhh, formidable position that they are now all about "ASKING TOUGH QUESTIONS!" And what is tacitly understood is they're asking all these tough questions to somehow HELP US. Bah-lo-ney! They're asking insipid, stupid questions that they've taken to labeling "tough" for one reason -- to increase ratings.

God help us from marketing morons, news consultants and focus groups. If you actually watch the broadcasts, essentially nothing has changed -- there's still 10 minutes of crime news followed by weather and sports.

The reality that none of the broadcasters seem willing to embrace is that the world has dramatically changed in recent years, that there are any number of ways that people now get their daily fix of news. Local TV news affiliates might best use their marketing budgets to beef up their news staffs and to begin to simply cover the day's happenings -- crime, politics, general interest features stories. Find the right mix, focus on accurate, unbiased reporting and, surprise, some viewers might start paying attention to what's being offered again.

I know it's a novel idea. Maybe if I form a consulting company and start marketing this idea I just might manage to bring about some significant change in local markets. And, hey, I wouldn't mind being handed some of the big bucks these specialists are being paid to come up with TOUGH QUESTIONS!

1 comment:

  1. Glad to know I'm not the only one who finds this "News That Can Help You" bullpuckey annoying and, yes, insipid.

    "We get it," intones the Intrepid Reporter.

    No, you don't. When I want help, I'll seek it out. If I'm watching your TV news show, I want news, not help.

    And I especially don't want to hear some lame-ass local band playing on Friday mornings. If I want music, I'll listen to the radio. Give me news... or sod off.